As the conflict grows in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the rising death toll and suffering of displaced civilians through brutal attacks, is cause for serious concern said the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Friday, which appealed for fresh funds to meet “soaring needs” across the country.

“This month, simultaneous attacks by armed groups in Ituri Province have left 11 people dead and 250 homes looted and burned. Between February and June this year, UNHCR and partners recorded over 800 deaths from firearm attacks and machete raids on local communities in Ituri,” reported UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh, briefing journalists in Geneva.

According to UNHCR, at least 715 of the victims had been sheltering in internal displacement sites or were killed as they attempted to return home.

In June alone, 97 were killed in attacks that included abductions, looting, and burning of homes, UNHCR says.

More than 20,000 people have been driven from their homes by such raids, which are also fueling acute food insecurity in the eastern Ituri province, where agricultural development in this fertile region has been stymied by long-standing inter-communal clashes.

In North Kivu province, a settlement for internally displaced people was destroyed last month by a group of armed men.

“In recent weeks, fighting between the Congolese Army and the M23 (rebel) group in North Kivu Province has displaced more than 160,000 people across Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories. The redeployment of Government troops to this conflict has created power vacuums and a fragile security environment in both Ituri and North Kivu,” said the UNHCR spokesperson.

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