New LRA rampage displaces thousands of Congolese

Briefing Notes, 7 August 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 7 August 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A growing number of attacks by the Ugandan rebel group known as the “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced some 12,500 Congolese civilians from their homes in the past month. The attacks took place in the Province Orientale in the north eastern part of the sprawling central African country.

In the month of July, the LRA launched an unprecedented 55 attacks against civilians in Faradje area, some 100 km west of the DRC’s border with South Sudan and Uganda. It also targeted villages in the Dungu district, Haut-Uele territory. In the same region, there were 23 LRA attacks in May and another 34 in June.

Since September 2007, the LRA has killed 1,273 people and abducted 655 children and 1,427 adults. Internally displaced people (IDPs) also tell UNHCR that many women have been raped by the rebels and their households looted and torched. More than 226,000 people have been displaced in Haut-Uele territory alone and another 42,000 in Bas-Uele, according to UN estimates.

The humanitarian situation in this remote part of the DRC remains dramatic. Most of the IDPs are unable to return home because of the ongoing assaults. They sleep in public buildings such as schools and churches. Some have been able to find shelter with friends, relatives or host families willing to share their meagre food stocks. According to our local partners, regular medical supplies are low, hospitals lack basic equipment and drinking water is in chronically short supply.

So far, UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have managed to reach some 45 per cent of the displaced and provide basic assistance such as food, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking sets. Insecurity is preventing larger scale deliveries of humanitarian aid. Ongoing insecurity and poor, impassable roads remain the main obstacles to our work. Some of the areas where the IDPs have gathered are accessible only by air.

Although assistance has been trickling through, there is an urgent need to deliver bigger volumes of aid items such as blankets, sleeping mats, jerry-cans, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting for temporary shelter, In July we distributed, through our partners, aid kits to 1074 families -benefiting some 5,000 people in Duru and Nangwakaza towns near the DRC’s border with the Central African Republic. Last weekend, another 800 aid kits were handed to families in Aru territory neighbouring Uganda. We are continuing monitoring missions to accessible areas to evaluate the needs of the IDPs.

Meanwhile, the LRA attacks in the DRC have a spillover effect on the neighbouring countries. Out of 21,000 refugees in South Sudan, 16,500 arrived since last November from the Province Orientale, mostly fleeing LRA attacks in Faradje territory. Some 2,000 new arrivals have been registered in the last three months at the Lasu registration centre. Upon arrival in South Sudan, Congolese refugees are registered by UNHCR and given food and basic aid items such as plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and sanitary material for women.

[original]

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