People are fleeing deadly clashes that erupted at the end of last December between two communities in Yumbi, Mai-Ndombe Province of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a UN official said Friday.
Andrej Mahecic, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), told a press briefing here Friday that the UN is supporting local authorities in the Republic of the Congo to provide humanitarian assistance to some 16,000 recently arrived refugees from the DRC.
According to the UN agency, an old rivalry between Banunus and Batende communities led to fresh inter-communal clashes, and the reignited dispute is reported to have killed dozens, with around 150 injured arriving in Congo-Brazzaville.
This is the largest influx of refugees from the DRC in Congo-Brazzaville in almost in a decade, since some 130,000 people were forced to seek shelter due to ethnic clashes in DRC's former Equator Province in 2009, Mahecic said.
He told reporters that refugees, mostly women and children of the Banunu tribe, continue to arrive in Makotipoko and Bouemba districts in the Republic of Congo where the Congolese authorities and UN agencies, including UNHCR, are providing medical treatment, food and non-food items.
Those fleeing DRC talked of attacks that left homes burned and people killed, some feared an escalation in the conflict.
In DRC, Mahecic said, a recent humanitarian assessment mission to Yumbi found more than 450 houses destroyed following the clashes and found people in dire need of basic assistance including food, health services and shelter.
"Authorities in the Republic of the Congo formally requested the assistance of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations. We are coordinating relief efforts to support the government in assisting refugees," he said.