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'When you run, they shoot you with an arrow': Desperate families flee violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

"What was here two weeks ago? Nothing," says our guide.

Look across the gentle slopes now, and there are plastic shelters and smouldering camp-fires almost as far as the eye can see.

The thousands of people here are fugitives from just one of the many conflicts that threaten to consume their homeland.

We’re in Uganda, whose government is host to 250,000 refugees. In all some 600,000 have fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Getting on for five million are displaced within the country. A vast nation descending into a crisis of a scale to match.

The World Food Programme has warned that two million children face starvation.

Three-month-old Nadia's father and brothers were killed in clashes. Credit: ITV News

Nadia is three months old. There are younger survivors, but few so lucky.

"I found the bodies of my husband and my sons. They had been hacked to pieces," her mother, Christine, tells me. She took her baby and ran, but still, a week after, visibly shivers at the memory.

"I am full of nothing but sorrow," she says.

Generation after generation of Congolese have been born into violence, but none has witnessed it on this scale for two decades.

Over the past two weeks, another 79 people were reported killed in clashes between ethnic groups in the DRC’s troubled east.

Tribal disputes that have smouldered for years have suddenly caught fire, scattering entire populations.

"They come at night and burn your house. When you run out, they shoot you with an arrow; when you fall they chop you with a machete," says an elderly man who brought his family of 15 to safety on Wednesday.

Refugee agencies say they are overstretched in the face of a humanitarian crisis. Credit: ITV News

Some believe President Joseph Kabila, whose term in office should have expired in 2016, is using the violence as a reason to further postpone elections belatedly set for December.

Most think the violence and instability will only intensify in the coming months.

"I hope the Congo will not implode," Robert Kwesiga, the Ugandan secretary general of the Red Cross tells me. "But there is a political void. Who knows what will fill it?"

The answer you see in the crowded camps: brutality, blood-shed and a desperate desire to run.