The UN refugee agency UNHCR is concerned for the security of tens of thousands of civilians in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where violence by armed groups has recently caused over 20 deaths.
The UNHCR said in a statement that attacks are on the rise in the Beni area of the North Kivu province and further north in Ituri province. Both provinces are close to the border with Uganda.
The latest displacements in Beni further increase humanitarian misery in North Kivu. This province has the highest number of internally displaced people in all of DR Congo, the UN agency said. An estimated one million people are displaced in North Kivu. Roughly half a million people have been forced from their homes this year alone. The region is also grappling with a deadly outbreak of Ebola.
Abuses against civilians on the rise
The refugee agency urged all parties involved in the conflict to protect and respect the lives of displaced civilians.
UNHCR staff reported a sharp increase in abuses against civilians and in displacement in the Beni area over the past months. In August alone, some 13,000 people were forced to flee their homes. While rising tension and protests by the local population have slowed some humanitarian activities, UNHCR said it plans to extend its activities on behalf of the conflict-affected population.
No Ebola cases reported among refugees
UNHCR said that in Uganda, on the other side of Lake Albert, the number of people fleeing the DR Congo has remained stable so far. On average, 200 people arrive each day, it said - some 6,000 new refugees a month - with a slight increase in the past few days. However, the arrival of refugees is only a small part of a larger daily movement of people between the country and Uganda, which includes retailers, visiting families and others.
Meanwhile, the UN agency is contributing to efforts implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ugandan government to monitor people crossing the border with Uganda and has established procedures for checkups to prevent the risk of an Ebola outbreak. So far, no cases were reported among refugees, the organization said.