Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.
Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.
In mid-July 2013, thousands of Congolese refugees began pouring over the border from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into Bundibugyo district in western Uganda. They were fleeing fighting triggered when a Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, attacked the town of Kamango in DRC's troubled North Kivu province. Many stayed in the mountainous border area, but others gravitated to the Bubukwanga Transit Centre deeper inside Uganda. Here, they were provided with protection and aid by the government, UNHCR and its partners. But the transit centre, with a capacity to hold 12,500 people, was soon overcrowded and people were encouraged to move to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement located 280 kilometres to the north in Hoima District. Since the first convoy left Bubukwanga for Kyangwali on August 14, more than 11,000 people have relocated to the settlement, where they have access to more comprehensive and long-term services. Photographer Michele Sibiloni recently visited Bubukwanga and followed a convoy of refugees as they made their way to the Kyangwali settlement.
Sister Angélique Namaika, a Congolese nun who has shown exceptional courage and unwavering support for survivors of violence in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been selected as the 2013 winner of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Ugandan rebel group, has waged a campaign of violence that has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people in north-eastern DRC's Orientale province over the past decade. Many Congolese women and girls have been kidnapped and terrorized.
Sister Angélique has been a beacon of hope for these victims, known for her very personal, one-on-one approach to help survivors move beyond their trauma. Many of the people under her care have been forcibly displaced and subjected to sexual violence.
The brutality of the LRA is notorious and the testimonials of the women Sister Angélique has helped are horrific. Adding to their trauma is the fact that many of the victims are stigmatized by society because of their experience. It takes a special person to help them heal and rebuild their lives.
This Year's Nansen Refugee Award winner has spent the past decade helping women, mostly through a combination of income-generation activities, skills development courses, literacy training and psycho-social counselling. She has made a positive difference to the lives of thousands of individuals, their families and communities.