UNHCR says conditions right for Congolese to go home from Zambia

News Stories, 19 September 2008

© UNHCR/N.Jayasinghe
Congolese refugees at Mwange Refugee Camp in Zambia listen with interest to presentations about conditions back at home in Katanga province.

LUSAKA, Zambia, September 19 (UNHCR) The UN Refugee Agency and the governments of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this week intensified efforts to encourage the last 51,000 Congolese refugees in camps in northern Zambia that the time is right to go home.

"We encourage you to seriously consider voluntary repatriation while assistance is still available," James Lynch, UNHCR's Representative in Zambia, told refugees on a visit to the camps earlier this week. "We'll assist those that want to go back," he said, referring to food, farming tools and housing materials given to returnees.

Lynch led a team from the Zambian ministry of home affairs, the commissioner for refugees' office and the embassy of the DRC in Zambia, to Kala and Mwange refugee camps in northern Zambia, more than 1,000 kilometres from the capital, Lusaka.

In the past few weeks, UNHCR has used radio programmes, door-to-door information dissemination in the two camps and come-and-tell visits from DRC to promote repatriation. As a result, increasing numbers of refugees are expressing interest in returning home to Katanga province.

During the first week of October, UNHCR will organize "go-and-see" visits for refugees in the Zambia camps to check out conditions in the areas of DRC they fled in during DRC's civil war in 1999 and 2000.

While the decision to repatriate is purely voluntary, UNHCR's message is that the refugee agency considers conditions in many areas of DRC suitable for the return of refugees, since are accessible by road, cleared of landmines and offer security as well as basic services, including schools, health clinics and potable water.

"I think we meet the minimum conditions in areas where we are taking you," Mumpa Foloko Flo, First Secretary of the DRC embassy in Lusaka told the refugees in French. "You have to go back home to help in the reconstruction of your home through the skills you have acquired while in Zambia.

Refugees who are still hesitating expressed concerns about the quality of education available, farming opportunities and fighting still going on in parts of Congo.

Since voluntary repatriation began in 2007, 13,284 Congolese refugees have gone home from Zambia. UNHCR plans to be able to help some 30,000 Congolese refugees return home in the next year. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is facilitating transportation, while the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food to the returnees. Convoys will be suspended during the rainy season, which begins in October.

Zambia currently hosts about 87,000 refugees. Around 57,000 live in four camps in the Western, North Western, Northern and Luapula provinces, with nearly 30,000 living outside the camps. Congolese make up the majority of refugees, followed by Angolans and smaller numbers from Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.

By Kelvin Shimo in Lusaka, Zambia

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Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

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Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

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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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