NAIROBI, Conflicts have displaced some 10.7 million people in the Great Lakes region by the end of September, the UN humanitarian agency said in a report released on Tuesday.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa said the number, including 6.6 million international displaced persons (IDPs) across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Central Africa Republic (CAR), and Burundi, is expected to increase in the months ahead.
In its humanitarian outlook for the Great Lakes region, OCHA said the figure also included 3.5 million refugees and asylum seekers from these countries seeking protection in the wider region, including 2.1 million hosted in the Great Lakes region; and a further 600,000 from other regions currently hosted in the Great Lakes.
"Significant protection concerns are expected to continue to be reported across the region, including targeted attacks against civilians and gender-based violence in CAR, DRC and South Sudan," said OCHA.
According to OCHA, conflicts are likely to remain the dominant driver of protracted humanitarian crises in the CAR, DRC and South Sudan, with increasing regional implications.
It said the proliferation of non-state armed actors across conflict-affected countries in the Great Lakes region has led to a geographical expansion of conflict areas within each of these countries and concern regarding the spread of conflicts and armed actors across state borders.
According to the report, DRC hosts the largest population of IDPs in Africa (3.9 million) and Uganda the largest number of refugees in Africa.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock raised the alarm in August that renewed clashes in CAR may be early warning signs of genocide.
Regarding Burundi, Lowcock said that while overt violence and armed confrontations have declined, serious human rights abuses continue to be reported.
The UN said the region is battling simultaneous outbreaks of communicable diseases, including measles, cholera and a high malaria burden, which are expected to worsen during the rainy seasons.
There is also a deepening food insecurity crisis in the region, largely driven by conflicts, where some 17.8 million people were severely food insecure at the end of September across DRC (7.7 million people), South Sudan (6 million),
Burundi (2.6 million), CAR (1.1 million) and Uganda (400,000). "The nutrition situation is also a concern, with over 800,000 children estimated to be severely malnourished," it said. "Although several countries may see seasonal improvements in the months ahead, the overall trajectory is of increasing food insecurity."
The report said active transmission of measles is ongoing in DRC, Uganda and South Sudan, while there were cholera outbreaks in DRC, South Sudan and Tanzania, and cholera cases reported in Burundi at the end of September.
A malaria outbreak has been formally declared in Burundi, and malaria remains the leading cause of mortality in South Sudan. Some 12.9 million people are in need of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) assistance, the report said.
According to the UN, direct attacks, widespread insecurity and bureaucratic impediments are hampering aid workers' ability to reach those most in need. "At least 25 aid workers were killed from January to August 2017 in the countries covered in this report, including six killed in a single incident in CAR in August," said the UN.
It noted that despite rising needs, humanitarian responses are underfunded, with over 2.8 billion U.S. dollars of unmet humanitarian requirements across the region at the end of September.