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UNHCR resumes return operation for displaced in northern DRC

News Stories, 21 July 2008

© UNHCR/C.Sani
Displaced people prepare to go back home to Ituri with UNHCR last year, before the operation was suspended for security reasons.

ITURI DISTRICT, Democratic Republic of the Congo, July 21 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Monday resumed the assisted return of displaced Congolese to their homes in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) seven months after suspending the operation for security reasons.

Five boats chartered by UNHCR ferried the first group of 712 people from a settlement for internally displaced people (IDPs) at Tchomia across Lake Albert to the town of Gobu in the Ituri district of DRC's Orientale province. A further 1,800 IDPs are expected to return by this route in coming weeks.

Those leaving for Gobu on Monday seemed delighted to finally be going back home. "Now, I can have a real roof and not live any more under plastic sheeting", one 52-year-old returnee told a UNHCR protection officer.

UNHCR was also scheduled to resume on Monday another IDP return operation in the province. The refugee agency hopes to assist the return of almost 7,000 people from Beni and Eringhety to Komanda and the Ituri capital, Bunia, starting with a first group of 220 people.

Some 3,000 IDPs have returned home under this operation, which was suspended by UNHCR in December for security reasons.

Return operations to the Ituri region were launched last year but halted in December due to clashes between rebel fighters and troops of the DRC armed forces, which also threatened the reintegration and recovery processes in the district.

The return of those on Monday's ferry journeys has been made possible by a considerable improvement in the security situation. UNHCR now plans to wrap up the assisted return programme by the end of this year.

Some 600,000 displaced Congolese remain in the Ituri region, living in settlements or with host families. Many fled their homes during the DRC's wider civil war between 1996 and 2002, which left 50,000 civilians in Ituri dead, while thousands more left their homes when inter-ethnic clashes erupted in 2003 all over the district.

UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are now in a recovery and reintegration phase, helping to reconstruct homes, schools and health centres and providing seeds and agricultural tools to farmers in Ituri. "The district now has more schools, more health centres, and business activities are resuming," said a local in Komanda.

The UN refugee agency also supports income-generating activities such as carpentry, sewing and small-scale trading. Particular attention is given to the most vulnerable IDPs, including widows and orphans.

Those retuning on Monday were each given a return package that included blankets, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, plastic sheeting and construction tools. They are also received food aid from the World Food Programme and agricultural assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization.

But some are likely to face land disputes when they get home a problem throughout DRC for returnees, including refugees and IDPs. UNHCR is involved in dispute resolution mechanisms aimed at alleviating the problem.

Despite sporadic outbreaks of violence in the Ituri region, significant progress has been made since 2004 to restore lasting peace and to disarm and demobilize rival military forces and reintegrate fighters into society.




Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

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Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

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

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