Aid agencies are unable to access thousands of people displaced from the town of Mitwaba, in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) province of Katanga as a result of recent fighting between rebels and government forces.
"Since 11 April, thousands of people have been forced to move from Mitwaba to Kasungeshi 45km away because of an attack by Mayi Mayi rebels led by Gédéon Kyungu on the armed forces of the DRC," Medard Lobota, information officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the DRC, said at a recent press conference.
"Distribution of food and other humanitarian assistance has been postponed as a result of insecurity in the area," he told IRIN.
Local sources told IRIN the latest attack is estimated to have displaced 18,000 people. However, the region has been volatile for several months.
According to OCHA, the Mayi-Mayi group attacked soldiers of the Congolese army (FARDC) in Katanga's Shamwana village on 29 February, displacing an estimated 26,000 people in the Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto territories. In December 2011, more than 16,000 people were displaced in the Mitwaba, Pweto, Manono and Malemba Nkulu territories as a result of fighting between FARDC and the rebels.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) appealed for US$4 million on 27 March to respond to the humanitarian needs of those displaced by the violence in Katanga.
"The priorities are food, non-food items and emergency shelter, the protection of civilians, protection of children against abuse, access to health services, water and sanitation, treatment of acute malnutrition in young children and the return of displaced children to school," said the appeal.
Aid agencies noted that women and children constituted 86 percent of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), with 25 percent of children under the age of five. Many IDPs were living with, and depending on, already impoverished families within host communities.
"A recent study by Médecins Sans Frontières demonstrates that this situation is gradually getting worse among the internally displaced in Mitwaba, mainly due to malnutrition, malaria and anaemia," the agencies noted, adding that no vaccinations had been performed in Mitwaba since December 2011 as a result of insecurity, while poor sanitation in the IDP sites was raising the risk of epidemics.