Fighting between the army and a group of armed men in eastern Congo forced some 11,000 people to flee across the border into Uganda in the last few days, UNHCR said on Tuesday.
This represents the largest refugee influx in a single day for more than a year, the refugee agency said.
Women and children comprise the majority of those who have crossed the border to escape clashes between militia groups and the Congolese armed forces in Rutshuru Territory, in the DRC’s North Kivu province.
“Uganda’s borders are closed to asylum-seekers due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the government has once again applied a humanitarian exception and granted safe passage to people seeking safety,” UNHCR said in a statement.
Previously, U.N. investigators accused Rwanda and Uganda, which intervened militarily in Congo during two regional wars two decades ago, of supporting the M23.
M23 has been largely inactive since capturing swathes of territory during an insurrection in 2012-2013.
On Tuesday Rwanda’s army rejected reports the attackers were based in Rwanda.
“The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) is neither involved in nor supports any activity of the ex-M23 armed group,” the RDF said in a statement.
“The ex-M23 group… has been based in Uganda, from where this attack originated, and to where the armed group retreated.”
UNHCR is seeking some $335 million this year for its operations in Uganda, which hosts more refugees than any other country in Africa. Globally, only three countries take in more refugees.
So far, only around 45% of the funding has been received.