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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Regional Overview: Great Lakes

UNHCR Fundraising Reports, 1 December 1998

The flight of millions of refugees from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda presented UNHCR with one of the greatest protection challenges in the agency's history. Mixed in among the civilian refugees were some of the organizers and perpetrators of the genocide. Refugee camps harboured not only innocents who deserved international protection, but combatants who clearly did not. These military elements threatened the safety of refugee and aid workers, and threatened the stability and security of their host countries and their countries of origin. Ensuring the protection of refugees over the following four years became an almost impossible task.

Protection under enormous difficulties

Yet in spite of the enormous difficulties, UNHCR protected refugees, provided lifesaving assistance, and helped repatriate most of the refugees during 1996 and 1997. 1998 began with promising indications that diplomacy, reconciliation, and democracy in the region would lead to a durable peace and consequent solutions to the refugee problems in the region. As part of the positive momentum, in February 1998, UNHCR organized a visit by the High Commissioner to nine countries in the region and helped arrange a regional consultative meeting at the ministerial level in Kampala. Regional refugee and state security issues were addressed during both events.

New Rebellion

The period of stability was short-lived. A rebellion in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) challenged the authority of the President, Laurent Kabila. Rwandan military advisors were expelled from the country, and hostilities which erupted in Kinshasa in early August 1998 spread quickly to the Kivu region where local military commanders declared their intention to remove Kabila from power. The rebels advanced quickly in Kivu and in other parts of the country and mounted an assault on Kinshasa. The Government, supported by other countries, launched a counter- offensive. The outcome of the conflict remains far from certain, and large parts of the country are inaccessible.

Contingency Plans

A relatively small number of refugees have fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo to date. As of early October, some 9,000 Congolese refugees had arrived in Kigoma (United Republic of Tanzania), and nearly 6,000 had fled to Burundi. Smaller numbers arrived in Rwanda and the Republic of the Congo. But the potential for a humanitarian crisis is real, and UNHCR offices in neighbouring countries closely monitor events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The High Commissioner has appealed for more active engagement by sister United Nations agencies and NGOs in reviewing and updating contingency plans in neighbouring countries should there be another large-scale flight of refugees in the region.

On a more positive note, the peace process in and around Burundi is showing signs of progress. While it is too early to predict the outcome, UNHCR is preparing to promote repatriation to Burundi from the United Republic of Tanzania if conditions are favourable.

Budget US$

The budget does not include costs at Headquarters.

CountryGeneral ProgrammesSpecial ProgrammesTotal
Burundi14,369,28914,369,289
The Republic of the Congo152,6001,993,6002,146,200
The Democratic Republic of the Congo1,803,3008,074,7439,878,043
Rwanda28,951,92928,951,929
The United Republic of Tanzania2,470,20026,732,16829,202,368
Other Countries*3,788,8833,788,883
Regional Projects**9,600,0009,600,000
TOTAL4,426,10093,510,61297,936,712

* Includes costs in Angola, the Central African Republic, Kenya and Uganda.

** Includes supplementary food, basic assistance items (plastic sheets, blankets, jerrycans and kitchen sets), transport (light aircraft) and United Nations Volunteers and consultants. These costs are part of the budget for the Great Lakes Operation and Rwanda.

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Author Hosseini in Afghanistan

UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini visited Afghanistan in early September and saw first-hand one of the UN refugee agency's largest and most complex operations. During a 10-day trip, the best-selling author visited UNHCR projects and met returnees in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, Balkh, Parwan and Kabul. Hosseini, a former Afghan refugee now settled in the United States, noted that it would take time and effort for Afghanistan to provide returnees with adequate infrastructure and services. He urged the international community to remain committed to Afghanistan and to give the country time. Hosseini could not visit the south and parts of the east, where insecurity is impacting on the ability of UNHCR to assess needs and provide assistance to those who need it the most. Since 2003, UNHCR has helped more than 4 million refugees return to Afghanistan. This year, some 300,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan. More than 900,000 remain in Iran and 2 million in Pakistan.

Author Hosseini in Afghanistan

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

For over a quarter of a century, Afghanistan has been devastated by conflict and civil strife, with some 8 million people uprooted internally and in neighbouring countries. The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 resulted in one of the largest and most successful return operations in history.

Seven years on, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned - increasing Afghanistan's population by an estimated 20 percent.The large majority have gone back to their areas of origin. However, some recent returnees are facing more difficulties as the country's absorption capacity reaches its limits in some areas. Last year, some Afghans returned before they were ready or able to successfully reintegrate due to the closure of refugee villages as well as the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan. In consequence, 30,000 Afghan refugees returned to further displacement in their homeland, unable to return to their villages due to conflict, lack of land, shelter materials, basic services and job opportunities. These challenges have been compounded elsewhere across the country by food insecurity and severe drought.

UNHCR and the Afghan Foreign Ministry highlighted the requirements for sustainable refugee return and reintegration at an international conference in Kabul in November 2008. The donor community welcomed the inclusion of refugee reintegration within the government's five-year national development strategy and the emphasis on land, shelter, water, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods. It is anticipated that repatriation and reintegration will become more challenging in future.

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

Kuwaiti Funds Provide Vital Medical Aid for Syrians in Lebanon

As the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continues to grow, ensuring access to quality health care is becoming an increasing challenge for humanitarian aid groups and the international community. So, Kuwait's unprecedented donation in April of US$110 million for UNHCR's Syria crisis operations this year came at a most opportune time. Slightly more than 40 per cent of the amount has been used to fund programmes in Lebanon, including the provision of vital - and often life-saving - medical care. In the following photo gallery, photographer Shawn Baldwin looks at the essential work being done in just one Kuwaiti-supported clinic in northern Lebanon. The small Al Nahda Primary Health Care Clinic in the town of Beddawi has a staff of seven doctors and one nurse. Between 600 and 700 people seek medical attention there every month and the clinic meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable refugees.

Kuwaiti Funds Provide Vital Medical Aid for Syrians in Lebanon

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