Thousands of Congolese refugees flee to Uganda

The United Nations refugee agency reports around 7,500 Congolese refugees have fled to Uganda this month to escape escalating inter-ethnic violence.

Officials are screening them closely, not only for wounds and injuries but for any who might be carrying the deadly Ebola virus.

UNHCR further reports that refugees are crossing into Uganda at the rate of about 300 a day, more than twice as many as in May. Most are fleeing across Lake Albert from Ituri province, where renewed clashes between the Hema and Lendu groups have displaced a massive 300,000 people this month.

“Armed groups are said to be attacking villages, torching and looting houses, and killing men, women and children,” says UNHCR Spokesman Andrej Mahecic.

Some refugees are arriving with significant belongings, fearing they may not be able to return to their homes. Others who have fled imminent danger have little more than the clothes on their backs. Nearly two-thirds are children, i.e., they are below the age of 18.

According to Mahecic Ugandan transit and reception, facilities are overwhelmed by this huge influx of refugees. He said all those who arrive undergo a health screening. He added that many of the refugees need medical care for wounds and injuries they may have received while fleeing violence.