Congo (Brazzaville) refugees into Gabon

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The first arrival of Congolese refugees in Gabon was reported this weekend with around 1,500 Congolese crossing into three provinces along a 1,000 km stretch of the border, apparently pushed out by the ongoing fighting and unrest in Congo (Brazzaville).

650 people were reported to have crossed into the southern provinces of Nyanga and Ngounie, with another 800 arriving in Haut OgoouT, to the the north. All the refugees were said to be malnourished and in poor health. Refugees reported that many more Congolese may make their way through forests in search of aid in Gabon.

UNHCR staff, along with personnel from WHO and the Red Cross, left the capital Libreville yesterday for the border. UNHCR is taking first aid supplies and is making arrangements to fly in blankets and purchase food locally.

Gabon becomes the second country to receive refugees from Congo Brazzaville since rival forces reopened the conflict in late 1998. Around 32,000 have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo from the Pool region, to the south-west of the capital. The new outflow may signal a general deterioration in other parts of the country.