The number of internally displaced people within the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached a record 6.9 million due to escalating violence, the United Nations said Monday.
The conflict between Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23) rebels and militias loyal to DR Congo’s government has intensified in the eastern province of North Kivu since early October, particularly north of the provincial capital Goma.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration said many people who have fled their homes but stayed within the DRC’s borders desperately needed help to meet their basic needs.
“The IOM is intensifying its efforts to address the complex and persistent crisis in the DRC as the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) climbs to 6.9 million people across the country — the highest number recorded yet,” it said in a statement.
“With ongoing conflict and escalating violence, the DRC is facing one of the largest internal displacement and humanitarian crises in the world.”
The M23, which has captured swathes of territory in the eastern DRC since 2021, is one of several militias holding sway over much of the region despite the presence of international peacekeepers.
The IOM said that as of October 2023, about 5.6 million IDPs were living in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, and Tanganyika.
“Conflict has been reported as the primary reason for displacement,” it said.
In North Kivu up to one million people have been displaced due the ongoing conflict with the M23.
“As the security situation, particularly in North Kivu and Ituri, continues to deteriorate, movements become more frequent and humanitarian needs soar,” the IOM said.
Fabien Sambussy, the IOM’s DRC mission chief, added: “For decades, the Congolese people have been living through a storm of crises.”
“The most recent escalation of the conflict has uprooted more people in less time like rarely seen before. We urgently need to deliver help to those most in need.”