Congolese pour into Zambia in numbers to escape DRC violence

The U.N. refugee agency reports the number of refugees that have fled into Zambia to escape militia violence in Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika Provinces of Democratic Republic of Congo now has topped 12,000.

The agency reports more than 8,400 Congolese refugees have arrived in Zambia in just the last three months, indicating a worsening of the situation in south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Government forces reportedly are killing many civilians in response to the rebellion in Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika Provinces against the continued rule of the country’s President, Joseph Kabila.

To put the increasing instability in the country in perspective, UNHCR spokesman, Babar Baloch, notes more than four million people are internally displaced in DRC. He said that within the past month alone, 200,000 more people have fled their homes.

“When you do the math, the rough total of internal displacement comes to around 6,500 people being displaced each day. Refugees who are arriving, they fear that as violence is intensifying, they fear that more people could be forced out from DRC into Zambia,” said the spokesman.

Baloch said some 80 percent of the refugees are women and children, driven out by the extreme brutality of rampaging militias. He said civilians reportedly are being killed, women raped, property looted and houses torched.

He said the UNHCR and its partners urgently need more money to develop a new site in Zambia and provide life-saving assistance for the expanding refugee population. He said humanitarian activities in DRC and Zambia are hugely underfunded, noting less than one quarter of the $236 million needed to run this operation has been received.

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