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Refugees flee from Congo

by
19 July 2013

by a staff reporter

REUTERS

In transit: Congolese refugees displaced by fighting between the Congo army and rebel forces, shelter in a makeshift camp in Bukanga last week

In transit: Congolese refugees displaced by fighting between the Congo army and rebel forces, shelter in a makeshift camp in Bukanga last week

ABOUT 70,000 refugees have fled over the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into Uganda, causing a humanitarian crisis there, aid agencies say.

Mohammed Adar, the repre-sentative in Uganda of UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, said it was "an extraordinarily swift and concerning influx of refugees into an area with very limited preparedness to extend humanitarian assistance to such a large number of people." They would mount an initial response as quickly as possible, while preparing for "an enhanced operation". An appeal has also been launched by Tearfund and other aid agencies to get emergency supplies to the area.

Even before the arrival of these refugees, Uganda was home to more than 210,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers, 63 per cent of whom come from the DRC.

The DRC has been riven with fighting between government forces and different rebel groups since 2003. There has been further heavy fighting this week near Goma, in the eastern DRC, between government forces and the M23 rebels. The UN has said that it is prepared to use "lethal force" to protect civilians if the M23 advances on Goma.

The Anglican Church in the DRC is running a project in Goma to support women and girls rejected by their families after being subjected to sexual assaults and rape. Rape as a weapon in the conflict is "widespread", the UN says. The Church has asked for prayers for civilians caught up in the conflict.

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