A rise in violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is displacing more people and hampering humanitarian efforts, including operations to stop the spread of Ebola, the United Nations refugee agency warns.
More than 20 people have been killed in recent attacks in the Beni area of Congo’s North Kivu province and farther north in Ituri province, both near the border with Uganda.
The UNHCR estimates more than a million people are displaced in North Kivu. And, it notes, more people are fleeing their homes in the face of increasing attacks.
The main rebel groups — the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda — have been active in the Beni area for some time. However, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch tells VOA fighting has reached the city itself for the first time, making it risky for staff to move around.
“Many humanitarians have had to stop their activities. But, UNHCR, we are trying to send colleagues into Beni town as soon as we can to provide humanitarian assistance to those who have been affected by the recent rounds of violence,” Baloch said.
Beni is the epicenter of an Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, and is the base for anti-Ebola operations by the World Health Organization. These operations were shut down temporarily following recent rebel attacks.
WHO reports 154 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in the area, including 101 deaths. The agency resumed its activities in Beni on Wednesday, despite security concerns.
WHO officials say they cannot afford to halt operations and allow the deadly Ebola virus to spread.