The United Nations refugee agency has reported that the number of refugees fleeing from militia violence in the Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo into Zambia has now reached 12,000.
According to the agency, over 8,400 Congolese refugees have arrived in the last three months alone, as the situation in south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) worsens.
Civilians in the two provinces are reportedly being killed by government forces in response to a rebellion against the continued rule of the President, Joseph Kabila.
Kabila took office in January 2001 following his father’s assassination, then was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2011.
Per the constitution, his term was due to end in December 2016, however the election was postponed until 2018 under justification of the need for a census before holding elections.
The President has faced constant wars in eastern Congo and internal rebel forces supported by the governments of neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda.
UNHCR spokesman, Babar Baloch, said that more than 4 million people are internally displaced in DRC, with 200,000 fleeing in the last month.
Around 80% of the refugees are believed to be women and children.
They have been driven out by the militia’s extreme brutality, including rape, looting and destruction of property, and killings.
He called for urgent funds to help build a new site in Zambia and provide the growing refugee population with life-saving assistance.
Currently, he said, humanitarian activities in the area are significantly underfunded, with less than a quarter of the US$236 million needed for the operation received so far.
Baloch said: “When you do the math, the rough total of internal displacement comes to around 6,500 people being displaced each day.
“Refugees who are arriving, they fear that as violence is intensifying, they fear that more people could be forced out from DRC into Zambia.”