UNHCR appeals for US$90 million to help internally displaced people

UNHCR asks donors to support more than US$90 million in programmes aimed at assisting millions of internally displaced people during the coming year.

Internally displaced children attend class in a bush school in northern Central African Republic, which is included in the UNHCR appeal.   © UNHCR/H.Caux

GENEVA, January 29 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Tuesday asked donors to support more than US$90 million in UNHCR programmes aimed at assisting millions of internally displaced people (IDPs) during the coming year.

Chief UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists in Geneva that the appeal covers UNHCR's IDP operations in six African countries and one in South America: Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia and Uganda.

UNHCR is working in these countries under the cluster approach, in which UN agencies collaborate with other international and non-governmental organizations to deliver humanitarian assistance.

Additional funding has also been requested to strengthen the global capacity of the cluster approach. UNHCR leads clusters providing protection for IDPs and co-leads clusters on IDP camp management and emergency shelter.

"UNHCR has been protecting and assisting IDPs for more than 30 years," said Neill Wright, senior coordinator of UNHCR's IDP operations. "But our engagement has become more predictable in recent years and we are now actively involved in some 25 IDP operations worldwide, including the latest response in Kenya."

Unlike refugees who cross international borders to flee violence and persecution, IDPs remain within their own countries. There are an estimated 24.5 million IDPs in the world; UNHCR in 2006 was helping 12.8 million.

The budget for programmes covered in the appeal totals US$90,532,906, spokesman Redmond said, adding that this broke down into US$23,596,400 for DRC, US$15,871,200 for Chad, US$18,719,715 for Colombia, US$15,443,000 for Uganda, US$10,861,623 for strengthening UNHCR capacity in Global Clusters, US$2,997,916 for CAR, US$1,973,052 for Liberia and US$1,070,000 for operations in Côte d'Ivoire.

At the end of 2007 there were 1.3 million IDPs in the DRC, with new displacements continuing in North Kivu province. UNHCR is leading the cluster on camp coordination and camp management, which became vital with the emergence of worrying patterns such as protracted displacements and IDPs spontaneously settling in makeshift sites.

"In this conflict there is little regard for humanitarian and human rights law. In a context of almost total impunity, IDPs and the rest of the population are often the victims of widespread human rights abuses," the UNHCR funding appeal said.

"The protection of civilians from violence, maintaining the civilian character of IDP [camp] settings and combatting sexual violence and child abuse will remain the overarching priorities." In 2008, some 200,000 IDPs will be assisted in up to 15 sites in DRC. UNHCR will have to contend with insecurity that limits access to many IDPs.

In Chad, UNHCR will try to assist an estimated 180,000 IDPs. UNHCR leads the clusters on protection, site management, emergency shelter and telecommunications.

In Colombia, decades of internal armed conflict have left up to 3 million people displaced; UNHCR plans to assist 470,000 during 2008. Among the activities will be providing identity documents to 100,000 Colombians and helping 50,000 displaced children to access the education system.

In Uganda, peace talks between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army have raised expectations that up to 500,000 of the remaining 1.3 million IDPs created by 20 years of war could go home in 2008. UNHCR leads the protection and camp coordination and camp management clusters.

The UNHCR funding appeal said many "displaced people live in overpopulated camps and transit sites, which lack adequate food, shelter, social and health services. The most vulnerable - women, children, disabled and other groups with special needs - are exposed to threats to their human rights and security."

In the north of the Central African Republic, some 212,000 IDPs have been forced from their homes. UNHCR intends to use the funding requested for 2008 to enhance the living standards of IDPs, but any large-scale return home during the year is unlikely and further deterioration in security may require additional resources.

Nearly US$11 million requested by UNHCR in the appeal is to strengthen its capacity as it takes on growing responsibilities under the cluster approach, which is filling earlier gaps in the international humanitarian response.

The programmes outlined in this appeal are also included in inter-agency appeals for CAR, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, DRC, Uganda and West Africa.