Fighting leads to displacement of more than 30,000 people


Geneva : The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday that its staff in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), are struggling to prepare for the arrival of an estimated 30,000 displaced people forced to flee camps and villages to the north of city amid fighting between rebel and government forces.

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UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters that two sites for internally displaced people at Kibati already hold some 15,000 IDPs.

Redmond added that the tens of thousands of people believed fleeing southwards include some 20,000 previously displaced people from Kibumba camp, 30 kms north of Goma, and an estimated 10,000 from surrounding villages. Many more could be on the way from areas further north that have been affected by the fighting in recent days.

Fighting was also reported close to Rutshuru, 100 kms north of Goma and the location of another UNHCR office.

In Goma itself, said Redmond, UNHCR staff describe the situation in the town as tense following demonstrations by frightened local residents yesterday which reportedly left five people dead. Fighting in North Kivu intensified at the end of 2006. By January 2008, it had brought the total of internally displaced people in the region to more than 800,000 people. There are 16 UNHCR-assisted sites in North Kivu sheltering some 100,000 people. Redmond said that tens of thousands of civilians have found shelter in more than 40 makeshift sites across the province. Aid agencies, said Redmond, estimate the total number of IDPs in the province as close to one million.