UNHCR helps traumatized children who fled DR Congo alone

News Stories, 17 July 2013

© UNHCR/L.Beck
Jean, aged 15, holds up his unaccompanied child number outside a tent set up by the Uganda Red Cross to house him and other unaccompanied children at Bundibugyo Transit Centre.

BUNDIBUGYO TRANSIT CENTRE, Uganda, July 17 (UNHCR) In a corner of a just opened refugee transit centre in western Uganda, a scared and confused 15-year-old orphan, Jean,* shares a tent with other Congolese boys who have lost or been separated from their families.

The special shelter for unaccompanied children is part of the transit centre at Bundibugyo, opened on Sunday to provide protection and assistance for a massive influx of civilians fleeing fighting between the Congolese armed forces and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) a Ugandan rebel group in and around the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) town of Kamango.

Since last Thursday, more than 66,000 people have sought shelter in Uganda from DRC's North Kivu province and some 5,000 of them had been transported to the camp as of Tuesday. The new arrivals urgently need assistance.

The biggest influx here in years has put a tremendous strain on the town of Bundibugyo (an estimated 21,600 people) and the district (240,000), where a significant proportion of the population is now made up of refugees.

Jean, whose parents died of illness when he was only nine years old, was one of those forced to flee. He ran in the early hours of Saturday from his village near Kamango after one of his neighbours was captured by armed men, tortured and then shot in front of him. The teenager was living with his 18-year-old brother, but they were separated in the confusion.

The boy found his way alone to the Ugandan border by following others, who were carrying their belongings and trying to evade the fighting. When Jean arrived in Uganda, he was forced to stay in a school building in the hilly border region before UNHCR and Uganda's Office for the Prime Minister opened the transit centre in Bundibugyo on Sunday, accepting a first group of 300 people.

"It had rained," he recalled. "There were so many people in the school we all had to stand and I couldn't sleep," added Jean, who is one of 20 unaccompanied children in the centre. They receive special assistance in getting food and are housed in the separate, safe, shelter.

The Bundibugyo transit centre is located 28 kilometres from the border and has a maximum capacity of 20,000. UNHCR and its partners, including the Uganda Red Cross, are encouraging people to move to the centre where it is easier to provide protection and assistance, especially for the most vulnerable.

Most of the refugees prefer to stay by the border, criss-crossing during the day and hoping to return home soon. But those who ask to be transported to Bundibugyo receive hot meals, shelter, blankets and mats. UNHCR or its partners are also constructing latrines and organizing water supplies. There are currently more than 5,000 refugees staying in the centre with more arriving almost hourly.

"This is by far the biggest influx I have ever seen," said UNHCR Field Assistant Andrew Lubwama. "Our main worry at the moment is sanitation and hygiene facilities for the refugees … although if the rains come early, then we may also have problems with disease outbreaks," he noted.

Jean and his new companions will be safer in Bundibugyo than up in the hills, but many are traumatized by the ordeal of flight and they worry about relatives. Jean worries about his brother, while another boy in his tent, Jackson,* thinks constantly of his blind mother.

The traumatized 11-year-old stands in ripped blue shorts and tells UNHCR that he lived with his brother and mother across the border in North Kivu. When the ADF attacked, he and his brother Fred,* aged 13, made the heart-breaking decision to flee, leaving their mother behind because she did not think she could survive the journey. The brothers do not know what happened to her.

Although the ordeal of flight is over for boys like Jean and Jackson, they face many new challenges. These include tracing lost relatives and making the decision whether to return home or volunteer to move to one of the refugee settlements in Uganda. For the moment they're just happy to be safe and have a roof over their heads…

* Names changed for protection reasons

By Lucy Beck in Bundibugyo, Uganda

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

A Time Between: Moving on from Internal Displacement in Uganda

This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.

DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

Donate to this crisis

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

Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

On August 5, 2002, some 24,000 Sudanese refugees fled their homes in Achol-Pii camp in northern Uganda after a bloody attack by the Lord's Liberation Army rebel group. More than 60 refugees and many local villagers were killed in the attack.

Fearing further violence, displaced refugees trekked overnight to Lira, from where UNHCR trucked them to Kiryondongo, 100 km to the south-west. Kiryondongo site, a settlement already hosting 13,000 refugees, was temporarily extended to accommodate the Achol-Pii survivors until another site could be prepared.

Arriving families were initially accommodated at an expanded reception centre at Kiryondongo. After being registered, the new arrivals received UNHCR plastic sheeting, an emergency food ration and a 20 x 15-metre plot per family to build their own temporary shelter. UNHCR also distributed blankets and jerry cans. Additional latrines were also dug, new water pumps installed and a new emergency clinic was set up.

Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

Uganda: A Father's TroublesPlay video

Uganda: A Father's Troubles

Forty-five-year-old Gabriel fled South Sudan with his wife and children to find safety in the UN compound in Bor. But, in April 2014, his wife was killed when an armed mob forced their way in, and now he is a single father to five children, seeking a better life in Uganda.
Uganda: Unique Approach For South SudanesePlay video

Uganda: Unique Approach For South Sudanese

Uganda has taken in thousands of South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict. The government is helping the new arrivals by giving them land on which to build a shelter.
Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate
Play video

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate

The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.