Numerous attacks by the insurgents of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in south-eastern Central African Republic (CAR) have displaced an estimated 20,000 people who remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance even as insecurity has made it difficult for aid agencies to reach them, the United Nations reported.

The new displacements have driven up the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the CAR, a country with a history of armed conflicts, to more than 180,000, UN agencies said in a press release issued at the weekend.

The LRA, an army of marauding armed gangs has terrorized villagers in the CAR, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan in recent years since they were routed in northern Uganda, where they waged a brutal rebellion ostensibly against the Government, but which mainly targeted civilians through murders, abductions and mutilations.

Since the beginning of this year, the LRA has carried out 13 raids in CAR, killing 45 people, abducting 90 others and torching hundreds of homes in the prefectures of Mbomou and Haut-Mbomou. Almost the entire population of the two districts have sought refuge in the towns of Bangassou, M'Boki, Rafai and Zemio. Last month alone, at least 15,000 new IDPs were registered.

“I am extremely worried by the humanitarian consequences of the LRA attacks on the displaced and the host communities in this part of the country,” said Bo Schack, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR. “The emergency humanitarian response is very difficult due to heightened insecurity in the area. Most of the affected people depend heavily on humanitarian assistance for their survival,” he added.

A UN mission will travel to the affected areas in the coming days to assess the situation and recommend an appropriate humanitarian response. A similar mission was carried out between 10 March and 2 April when food and non-food items were distributed to the IDPs. Five international relief organizations and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are currently providing humanitarian assistance.

The Government has deployed an additional 250 soldiers to strengthen army units who are already there to provide security to the local population and to track down LRA fighters with the support of Uganda's armed forces.

“In spite of growing international and national pressure to put an end to LRA violence, we fear that these people will be displaced from their homes for several months… They are traumatized,” said Jean-Sébastien Munié, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the CAR.

“We are collaborating with the Central African Republic authorities so as to bring about a response which is both immediate and adequate for the medium-term,” he added. Humanitarian agencies have appealed for $113.6 million to assist those in need in CAR this year.