Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec 8, 2017 / 15:49 pm
Every day, thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are forced to flee their homes.
In recent months, violent clashes have escalated, creating a massive refugee crisis that has gone largely unnoticed in much of the Western world.
“Conflict has forced millions of Congolese to leave their homes in the past year alone. The vast majority of these people are internally displaced within the country, while a minority have become refugees upon fleeing to neighboring countries,” said Amakala Constantin Sodio, the Kinshasa-based Catholic Relief Services country representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congo-Brazzaville.
Sodio told CNA Dec. 8 there has been a “rapid escalation” of conflicts in the regions of Kasaï, Tanganyika and South Kivu in 2016 and 2017. This has put 4.3 million people into a crisis situation, facing emergency levels of food insecurity.
More than 1.7 million people have fled their homes this year alone. The U.N. has classed the country refugee situation as Level 3, equal to Syria, Iraq and Yemen in its humanitarian need.
The situation is far from stabilizing. At least 14 U.N. peacekeepers and five Congolese soldiers were killed in an attack in North Kivu province Thursday night, believed to have been carried out by a rebel group.
“It's a mega-crisis. The scale of people fleeing violence is off the charts, outpacing Syria, Yemen and Iraq,” said Ulrika Blom, the country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, according to the BBC.
“If we fail to step up now, mass hunger will spread and people will die. We are in a race against time,” Blom added.
New armed conflicts, an intensification of current conflicts, and the delay in elections has helped drive the crisis, according to a report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.