Kinshasa — RAMPANT militia and rogue soldiers have raped more than 500 civilians in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a humanitarian disaster is raging.
About half of the victims of sexual violence in the affected province of Tanganyika are children.
Several areas of the province have seen atrocities and mass displacement, due to entrenched inter-communal conflicts between the Twa, the Luba and other ethnic groups.
Moreover, fierce clashes between the Congolese armed forces and militias have continued since the end of January.
"Sexual violence is of particular concern," lamented Andrej Mahecic, spokesman of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Despite access challenges and the prevailing stigma for those affected, UNHCR's partners managed to record 523 cases of sexual and gender based violence in Tanganyika.
"These were not only committed in the context of the ethnic conflict, but also by the soldiers deployed to fight the renegade militias," Mahecic said.
"Overall, already vulnerable displaced populations most often fell victim to the latest atrocities."
Atrocities include killings, abductions and rape.
UNHCR partners documented some 800 protection incidents in the first two weeks of February in Tanganyika.
Throughout last year, 12 000 reports of human rights violations were recorded.
Some 630 000 civilians are displaced.
UNHCR fears the number of the people affected by the violence could be higher as many areas are too dangerous to reach.
The agency is appealing for more thanUS$368 million (R4,3 billion) for the Congolese situation.