At least 40 civilians died in attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province over the course of three days last week, the UN said Tuesday.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said it was “sounding the alarm on a significant escalation of violence” in the area.
Armed groups have terrorised civilians in the former Zaire’s eastern region, where Ituri is located, for decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.
“In the past week, at least 40 civilians were killed in the span of three days in attacks by armed groups near the city of Bunia,” Ocha said.
“Overall, more than 600 civilians have been killed in Ituri this year, while some 345,000 have been displaced,” it said.
“We strongly condemn this violence and call on all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights principles,” Ocha said.
In the first quarter of 2023, the UN and its partners supported 460,000 people in Ituri, but a representative said the UN humanitarian response plan for the DRC is only 30 percent funded.
Conflicts in Africa in recent weeks have escalated quickly and caused tremendous suffering for civilian populations. Armed groups have targeted civilians, and there have been reports of widespread human rights abuses.
Just this week, over 10 people reported at least 10 civilian deaths in two attacks in Burkina Faso. The Sudan conflict toll has now reached more than 300 deaths and many more injuries. In Ethiopia, the government declared a state of emergency in Tigray as it continued to battle a rebel group. Humanitarian aid groups are warning of a major crisis if the fighting does not stop immediately.
“We urge the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of the DRC and provide the support needed to address this spiralling humanitarian crisis,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general.