Renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) North Kivu province today has forced the United Nations refugee agency to halt the distribution of aid to internally displaced persons and to call off a drive to register newly displaced people in the Rutshuru area.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) suspended operations after reports of new fighting between Government soldiers and fighters from the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) near the Kinyandoni Anglican IDP site in North Kivu. Clashes on Saturday and Sunday left at least one woman dead.
UNHCR field staff reported that IDPs were continuing to flock to sites around Kiwanja. The majority is sheltering in public buildings and most new arrivals are women and children. Some said their homes had been destroyed and their possessions looted, while some parents said they had lost touch with their children.
The UN agency said that "medical assistance is of vital importance," and added that suspected cases of cholera had been reported.
The hundreds fleeing in recent days have added to an estimated existing IDP population of 860,000 in North Kivu, which lies next to the border with Rwanda and Uganda.
The displacement in the Rutshuru area, some 70 kilometres north of the provincial capital, Goma, comes three months after the signing of an accord in Goma between the Government and rival armed groups aimed at bringing lasting peace to the DRC's far east after more than a decade of conflict. Despite the accord, tensions have remained high.
A peace agreement in 2003 formally brought years of war to a close, but fighting flared again in North Kivu that same year. An estimated 1.3 million IDPs remain in the DRC, while 350,000 Congolese have fled to other countries.