Congolese refugees helped home as UNHCR programme accelerates

Making a Difference, 8 August 2012

© UNHCR/D.Martin
Congolese refugees are heading home, across the river that separates their homeland in the Democratic Republic of Congo from the Republic of Congo where they fled for safety in 2009.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, 8 August (UNHCR) More than 11,000 Congolese refugees have returned to their home province this year as a UNHCR programme of voluntary repatriation picks up speed.

The operation, which began on 5 May, is expected by the end of the year to assist the return of some 49,000 Congolese who fled from Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the neighbouring Republic of Congo (RoC) when ethnic clashes erupted in 2009. A further 32,000 are expected to return during the first half of 2013.

"Repatriation which began slowly is gradually reaching its cruising speed," said Geert Van de Casteele, head of the UNHCR office in Dongo in the DRC.

"If we can keep an average of 300 people per convoy, we hope during the month of August to repatriate between 8,000 and 9,000 people that would be in a month almost what we had accomplished during the previous three months."

Some 143,000 Congolese had fled their villages for safety in neighbouring countries -- 123,000 in RoC and 20,000 in the Central African Republic when clashes erupted between the Munzaya and Enyele groups over traditional fishing and farming rights.

An additional 100,000 Congolese were displaced inside Equateur province but most returned home when conditions improved. A few thousand refugees also returned on their own from the RoC.

But the remaining refugees in the RoC are in sites spread along more than 500 km of the Ubangi River. Water levels have not fully recovered from the dry season, presenting a major challenge for UNHCR's efforts to move supplies for the voluntary repatriation operation.

By 1 August, UNHCR had organised 42 convoys, carrying 10,596 refugees home. By 4 August, the total had risen to 11,199. During August UNHCR hopes to send 15 "organised" convoys, in which the UN refugee agency provides boats, and 17 "semi-organised" convoys, in which refugees arrange boats but also go to a UNHCR reception centre in Equateur Province.

Those returning assemble at a departure centre in the RoC, where assistance is provided.

"We need to ensure that refugees are able to travel on the river, that people living with chronic illnesses and other vulnerable groups are know and then they receive three months of medication to enable them to continue to heal," said Daniel Martin, head of the UNHCR office in Impfondo (RoC).

On arrival to the transit centre in DRC, UNHCR, its partner organisations and the government provide assistance to the returnees, including medical screening and registration. They stay for up to three days at the centre, receiving food and non-food items, educational material for school-age children, plus financial assistance for travel to their final destination.

UNHCR is also helping with reintegration in a region that lacks many facilities . A number of shelters have been built for the most vulnerable returning refugees. Two additional offices, in Buburu and Mbandaka in Equateur, are to be opened and will also assist as the repatriation should soon cover refugees who fled to the Central African Republic.

By Simon Englebert Lubuku in Kinshasa




UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

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