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Eastern DRC ‘at breaking point’

31 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Eastern DRC ‘at breaking point’ Thousands fleeing the continuing conflict between government forces and M23 rebels have sought shelter in the city of Goma [File: Moses Sawasawa/AP]

The Sunday News

War is on the doorstep of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Goma city and the region is at breaking point, activists and aid workers have said, as the United Nations sounds an alarm over the situation in the Central African country.

“One Congolese person out of four faces hunger and malnutrition,” Bintou Keita, the head of the UN’s DRC peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, told the UN Security Council this week, warning of a rapidly deteriorating security situation and a humanitarian crisis reaching near catastrophic levels.

“More than 7,1 million people have been displaced in the country. That is 800 000 people more since my last briefing three months ago,” she said.

Heavy fighting between the Congolese army and armed group M23 has intensified in the eastern part of the country since February, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes as the rebels make territorial gains.

The armed group “is making significant advances and expanding its territory to unprecedented levels”, Keita said at the UN on Wednesday.

This comes as fierce battles between the army and rebels have reached the outskirts of Sake, a village about 25km (15,5 miles) from regional economic hub Goma — marking a major advancement for M23.

About 250 000 people fled their homes between mid-February and mid-March, according to UN figures, with the vast majority seeking shelter in and around Goma. 

Pockets of makeshift tents have popped up along roads or desolated areas with no access to basic aid.

“Things are at a breaking point,” said Shelley Thakral, a World Food Programme spokesperson, after returning to Kinshasa from a trip to Goma. 

“It’s quite overwhelming — people are living in desperate conditions,” she told Al Jazeera. Many people have fled in a hurry with no belongings and now find themselves in cramped camps with little prospect of returning, she added.

The effects are also being felt inside Goma, where civilians have seen the price of basic commodities skyrocketing and health services being disrupted by a steady stream of refugees coming in. “The situation is at its worst and war is at the door,” said John Anibal, an activist with civil society group LUCHA based in Goma.

As the fighting spreads, it is also intensifying. According to ACLED, an independent data-collecting group, the use of explosives, shelling and air raids since the start of this year has quadrupled compared with the average in 2023. – Al Jazeera

 

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