Congo Republic violence leaves more than 150,000 people in need of aid: U.N.
DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Violence in Congo Republic's Pool region has uprooted tens of thousands of people and left many struggling to eat, yet their needs risk being overlooked due to humanitarian crises in neighboring nations, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
At least 165,000 people need aid and about 50,000 have been forced to flee their homes in the southeastern province of Pool, where the government began a military operation in April last year, according to a joint government and U.N. statement.
The army campaign aims to curb what the state says is a resurgent rebellion led by Pastor Ntumi, an enemy of President Denis Sassou Nguesso from the oil-rich country's 1997 civil war.
The Congolese government and the United Nations yesterday launched an appeal for $23.7 million in emergency funding to provide aid in the Pool region.
"There is a danger of the humanitarian situation being neglected given the conflicts and displacement occurring in Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo," said U.N. humanitarian coordinator Anthony Ohemeng Boamah.
Central African Republic has been plagued by conflict since March 2013, when Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, triggering reprisals by Christian "anti-balaka" militias.
Ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo has spread and worsened since December when President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate.
"We hope to see sufficient attention and support so the situation in Pool doesn't deteriorate further," Boamah told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from the capital Brazzaville.
Insecurity in the region has restricted access to schools, markets and health centres, and malnutrition rates are high as the violence has uprooted many farmers and disrupted planting, according to U.N. agencies who recently visited the region.
The number of people displaced and in need of aid in Pool may be far higher than recorded, as eight of 13 districts are largely inaccessible due to the violence, meaning that tens of thousands could be stranded without any support, Boamah said.
The United Nations said it was also concerned about the vulnerability of civilians to intimidation, attacks, and sexual violence. The unrest in the Pool region has sparked allegations of abuse by government forces from human rights groups.
The Congo Republic's government was not immediately available to comment.