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UN states Eastern DRC 'at breaking point' as humanitarian crises worsen

The UN warns of a deteriorating situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as M23 rebels continue to make gains, pushing hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes. 

Heavy fighting between the DRC government forces and armed group M23 has intensified in the eastern part of the country since February, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes as the rebels make territorial gains.

“One Congolese person out of four faces hunger and malnutrition,” Bintou Keita, the head of the UN’s DRC peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, told the UN Security Council this week, warning of a rapidly deteriorating security situation and a humanitarian crisis reaching near catastrophic levels.

“More than 7.1 million people have been displaced in the country. That is 800,000 people more since my last briefing three months ago,” she said.

The armed group “is making significant advances and expanding its territory to unprecedented levels”, Keita said at the UN on Wednesday.

This comes as fierce battles between the army and rebels have reached the outskirts of Sake, a village about 25km (15.5 miles) from regional economic hub Goma – marking a major advancement for M23.

“Things are at a breaking point,” said Shelley Thakral, a World Food Programme spokesperson, after returning to Kinshasa from a trip to Goma. “It’s quite overwhelming – people are living in desperate conditions,” she told Al Jazeera. Many people have fled in a hurry with no belongings and now find themselves in cramped camps with little prospect of returning, she added.

The effects are also being felt inside Goma, where civilians have seen the price of basic commodities skyrocketing and health services being disrupted by a steady stream of refugees coming in. “The situation is at its worst and war is at the door,” said John Anibal, an activist with civil society group LUCHA based in Goma.

The eastern region of the DRC has been plagued by violence for 30 years.

More than 200 armed groups roam the area, vying for control of its minerals, including cobalt and coltan – two key elements needed to produce batteries for electric vehicles and gadgets, such as PlayStations and smartphones.

Among the groups, M23 has posed the biggest threat to the government since 2022 when it picked up arms again after being dormant for more than a decade. Back then, it had conquered large swaths of territory, including Goma, before being pushed back by government forces.

Read more at Al Jazeera 

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