Ongoing conflict uprooted nearly 1 million people from their homes within the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. That’s more than triple the number of people driven from their homes within Syria and five times the number within Iraq, according to an aid group.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, an Oslo-based humanitarian organization, along with its Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva, released the staggering figures on Monday in a new report while warning that ethnic violence was escalating in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the Global Report on Internal Displacement, conflict, violence and disasters caused 31.1 million new internal displacements in 2016. Of the 6.9 million new internal displacements caused by conflict last year, 2.6 million took place in sub-Saharan Africa, overtaking the Middle East as the region worst affected.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s second-largest country, saw the world’s highest level of new displacement, with a spike of 922,000 new displacements during 2016 alone as a result of violent clashes. That number surpassed the 824,000 in Syria and 659,000 in Iraq, according to the report.
“Certain countries drop off the international agenda only to re-emerge a few years later with significant numbers of new displacements,” said Alexandra Bilak, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. “This was the case for the Democratic Republic of Congo, which highlights how the failure to address the underlying causes of conflict and crisis results in cyclical patterns of displacement.”
The report found that political insecurity within the central African nation aggravated long-standing ethnic tensions and clashes between armed groups last year, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu,South Kivu and Kasa.
“DRC’s largely forgotten crisis in central Africa superseded all other crises in terms of the number of people forced to flee their homes,” said Ulrika Blom, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Even Syria or Yemen’s brutal wars did not match the number of new people on the move in DRC last year.”
The number of those displaced throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo has more than doubled to 3.7 million since August 2016, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Despite the more than 7 million people in need of aid within the war-torn country, just 20 percent of the $813 million international aid appeal is funded.
“DRC is the world’s most forgotten crisis,” Blom said.
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