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The U.N. rights chief says eastern Congo’s escalating violence is being forgotten by the world

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GOMA, Congo — The world is forgetting the escalating violence in eastern Congo as conflicts continue in places like Ukraine and Gaza, the U.N. human rights chief said Wednesday while visiting the region and calling for peace and support for millions repeatedly displaced.

Eastern Congo has long been overrun by more than 120 armed groups seeking to control the region’s rich resources as they carry out mass killings. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced in recent months, worsening one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. About 7 million people are displaced, many beyond the reach of aid.

The humanitarian crisis must be taken “very seriously” to avoid further escalation, U.N. rights chief Volker Türk said after meeting with displaced people in Bulengo near Goma, the region’s largest city. It hosts most of the displaced people but is increasingly threatened by fighting in surrounding villages.

“There are a lot of conflicts in the world, and sometimes I have the impression that the situation here is being forgotten,” Türk said.

Fighting has intensified between security forces and the M23 rebel group, the most dominant in the region with alleged links to neighboring Rwanda. Attacks by the rebel group forced at least 165,000 people to flee their homes in March, most of them pouring into Goma, whose estimated population of 2 million people is already overstretched with inadequate resources.

Some Goma residents expressed frustration at how humanitarian support arrives slowly, if at all, despite such visits and appeals.

“We’ve been here for two years now and not much has changed,” said Asha Shamamba, 25, a mother of five. “When we see these white men marching here, we think they will be able to change something in our situation. But unfortunately, they only come with promises.”

The U.N. official said many of the displaced people are women and children who are constantly on the move as bombings and gunfire regularly erupt from surrounding mountains.

“It breaks my heart to see people who have been displaced several times in an extremely precarious situation here and who want peace,” Türk said. He appealed for influential groups and people to “use that influence to put an end to this situation.” He didn’t name names.

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