By Munira Abdelmenan Awel
More than 4,000 residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have crossed into Uganda in just three days to escape inter-ethnic violence and sexual abuse, a UN agency said Friday.
In a report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said residents of Ituri and North Kivu provinces crossed the border from March 10-13 and thousands more could arrive if the security situation does not improve.
Violence in eastern DRC has displaced more than 57,000 people since the beginning of this year, already surpassing last year’s total of 44,000.
To make the situation worse, 77.5 percent of those who fled are women and children.
The report said most of the refugees continue to cross into Uganda via Lake Albert in rickety and unsafe boats from Ituri, a journey that has already cost the lives of several refugees.
''The situation has been even more dangerous in recent days because of bad weather. Others continue to arrive on foot near the villages of Kisoro and Ntoroko,'' it said.
''Several of the new arrivals are in deep trauma from the violence. Many are exhausted, hungry, thirsty, sick and have fled with few or no belongings,'' the statement added.
Insurgent groups have been carrying out attacks in the DRC for several decades. There are several militia groups in eastern DRC formed by warlords that have been accused of looting property and controlling several gold mines.
The country has also seen several protests as opposition parties accuse President Joseph Kabila of avoiding elections and extending his term through illegal means.