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UNHCR warns of the impact of the fighting in the DR Congo on the civilian population

Since last week, a new wave of fighting between government troops and the M23 armed group has displaced nearly 135,000 people from the town of Sake, on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, to the provincial capital Goma, about 25 kilometers away.

Reports released by UNHCR show the use of bombs on civilian areas in Sake and Goma, where an estimated 65,000 internally displaced people are seeking refuge.

“The increasing use of heavy artillery and shelling in the clashes around Goma poses a serious threat to the civilian population, threatening further casualties and the destruction of buildings used as communal accommodation,” the agency warned in a statement published here.

The organization's regional director for Southern Africa, Chansa Kapaya, described the situation as “tragic and unacceptable” with men, women and children falling victim to relentless confrontations.

The representative made an urgent call for all parties to protect civilians, respect humanitarian law and establish safe corridors for assistance.

The indiscriminate bombings are increasing pressure on already limited resources to support 800,000 internally displaced people in the region and 2.5 million displaced people across North Kivu province.

On the other hand, it poses challenges for the delivery of aid and the work of humanitarian organizations, as they have few viable options for safe passage from Goma.

Meanwhile, the fighting and displacement coincide with a cholera outbreak and massive flooding since January that has wreaked havoc across the Democratic Republic of Congo.

UNHCR estimates that as of last week, nearly 100,000 homes, 1,325 schools, 267 health centers and large agricultural areas have been damaged or destroyed, while two million people, 60 percent of them children, are in need of assistance.