UN gives $5 mn in aid for crisis-hit DR Congo region

The DR Congo region of Kasai has been shaken by violence between security forces and militias since August 2016

The United Nations announced aid worth $5 million (4.7 million euros) on Saturday to help people affected by the humanitarian crisis in the violence-wracked Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The remote, central region has been plagued by violence since mid-August when government forces killed a tribal chief and militia leader, Kamwina Nsapu, who had rebelled against the central government of President Joseph Kabila.

At least 400 people have been killed since September, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in DR Congo.

"Today, throughout the three (areas of) Kasai, we count 200,000 internally displaced people, 32,000 returned, and more than 400 dead, including 66 in the month of January alone," OCHA said in a press release.

The $5 million grant, released through its Central Emergency Response Fund, will be for a maximum period of six months to save the lives of about 108,000 people.

"The majority of the affected population is still sheltering in places often located in the bush," OCHA said. "These displaced people have no access to drinking water, nor to basic food or health services."

The UN organisation added that the insecurity that continues to plague the province has forced many schools to close, "depriving some 53,000 students of normal schooling" this year.

Kasai is a particularly isolated and under-developed region in DR Congo.

Clashes between government forces and Nsapu supporters, which began in the central Kasai, have steadily also engulfed the east and west areas of Kasai.

In February, a seven-minute video posted to social media, which appeared to be taken by a cellphone, purported to show a massacre of unarmed men and women by Congolese soldiers apparently in the central Kasai area.

The government first qualified the video as a "ridiculous montage," rejecting international pressure to investigate. But two days later, it did an about-face, saying it was looking into the video "as a precautionary measure".