Displaced and desperate: IDPs flee violence in DRC

Tanganyika, DRC – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people worldwide. According to the United Nations, nearly half a million people were displaced in the southeastern province of Tanganyika between July 2016 and March 2017. Villagers fled their homes there to escape intercommunal fighting between Twa pygmies and Luba, a Bantu-speaking ethnic group.

Around 250,000 internally displaced people are now living in refugee settlements in and around the city of Kalemie, the capital of Tanganyika province. The majority of them have limited access to healthcare, and face extreme shortages of food, water and shelter. The mortality rate for children under five is equivalent to that expected during the acute phase of an emergency.

But people here have been living in these conditions for months.

“They have survived several attacks and have been forced to abandon their previous shelters. Each time, they lose some possessions and many have nothing left,” explains Stephane Reynier de Montlaux, an emergency coordinator with Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF).

With the rainy season fast approaching and people living in overcrowded conditions without access to sufficient clean water, a cholera epidemic is feared.

An outbreak of violence around Kalemie during the past two months has left even more people displaced, while fires have destroyed several refugee camps. 

On August 4, around 50 people were killed in clashes between the Twa and Luba near Kalemie. UN officials say they are concerned that the violence is escalating.

The roots of this violence can be found in past conflicts between the two ethnic groups, but with the arrival of Mai Mai armed groups from the restive North and South Kivus and the involvement of other local armed groups, the panorama of this conflict is growing more complex.