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Refugees urge resumption of repatriation to Moba; UNHCR waits

News Stories, 8 October 2007

© UNHCR/S.Lubuku
Congolese refugees in Mwange camp at a meeting with UNHCR officials and visiting members of their government.

MWANGWE CAMP, Zambia, October 8 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has told Congolese refugees anxious to return home from Zambia that it will only resume repatriation operations to Moba on Lake Tanganyika when the UN is able to return to the port town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Hundreds of refugees in northern Zambia's Kala and Mwange camps took advantage of a visit by UNHCR and DRC government officials last Friday to call for a resumption of the programme, which was suspended in early August after a vicious attack on UN premises in Moba. UN agencies are yet to return.

Nsona Vela Do Nascimento, head of the UNHCR delegation, assured the refugees in Zambia that voluntary repatriation to other parts of DRC's Katanga province such as Kalemie and Pweto would resume in the coming days. But repatriation by boat to Moba would have to wait a bit longer.

"As soon as we have authorization from the UN to return to Moba, we will return. We are here today to tell you that we have not abdicated our responsibility to help you return home," Nascimento told hundreds of refugees gathered in and around a thatched pavilion in dusty Mwange camp.

Up to 87 percent of the 43,000 Congolese refugees still living in camps in Zambia are expected to return home to Moba territory.

UN officials briefly visited Moba last week for the first time since UN agencies left the town after demonstrators on August 1 assaulted UN military observers and damaged offices belonging to UNHCR and sister agencies. The local authorities asked UNHCR to return to Moba, saying there was nothing to fear.

Many of the Congolese refugees in Kala and Mwange camps said they regretted that UNHCR could not yet resume returns to Moba. "We are ready to return home. Even if you tell us to go today, we are ready. We had come here expecting to be told the date of the repatriation to Moba," a refugee spokesperson in Mwangwe told the visiting delegations.

Members of the DRC delegation, which also included civil society representatives, urged refugees to be patient. "The forests in our land wait for you, the lakes wait for you, the rivers wait for you," Wembolwa Kasongo, from the DRC's National Commission for Refugees, told refugees at Mwange, adding that their long journey home was almost over.

The refugees asked government officials about arrangements for their reintegration, including job-creation schemes and assistance for the landless. "We are setting aside parcels of land for people who do not have a place to return to," Kasongo said.

Others wanted to know more about the situation in North Kivu province and the action being taken by the DRC government to quell fighting raging in that part of the country, which lies to the north of Katanga.

UNHCR began the assisted repatriation of Congolese refugees from Zambia in May this year and has to date helped more than 5,000 people return to Katanga province by ship and road. To aid their reintegration, UNHCR and partners have supported the formation of nearly 200 self-help groups mainly in Moba.

A similar number of self-help groups is expected to be formed in Kalemie and Pweto before the end of the year. Eight schools and three health centres in the main areas of return have been rehabilitated. To improve transport access, the refugee agency has rehabilitated about 480 kilometres of road linking Pweto and Moba.

UNHCR has so far this year assisted the voluntary return of some 43,000 Congolese refugees, mainly from neighbouring countries. Another 23,000 are expected to return home before the end of the year.

By Millicent Mutuli in Mwange, Zambia

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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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