UNHCR starts moving vulnerable displaced Congolese to safer area

News Stories, 28 November 2008

© UNHCR/D.Nthengwe
A UNHCR worker helps some of the vulnerable civilians who were moved from Kibati on Friday.

GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, November 28 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday began moving internally displaced civilians from camps near a military frontline in Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) North Kivu province to another in a much safer area.

A first convoy rolled out of Kibati I camp, located on the northern outskirts of the provincial capital Goma, on Friday morning with 28 highly vulnerable individuals. It took them to the Mugunga I site west of Goma, but the plan is to move up to 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from the two Kibati camps to the new Mugunga III, which has almost been completed.

The Kibati camps are too close to the frontline between government troops and soldiers loyal to the renegade commander, Laurent Nkunda. Fighting between the two sides since August has displaced some 250,000 people in North Kivu province, including the 67,000 IDPs now in Kibati.

The first convoy included people with special needs such as those with physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, pregnant women and the elderly. They also took along their belongings. UNHCR hopes to have transferred some 1,000 people to Mugunga I by the beginning of next week.

All of the transfers will be accompanied by an ambulance with a medical team. UNHCR staff, together with local officials and other aid workers, will receive the arriving IDP families at Mugunga I, where shelter, assistance and other basic services will be provided.

They will be joining another 25,000 IDPs, who have been there since 2006. The site has potable water, latrines, a health centre and a distribution point for food and relief items. UNHCR will step up the transfer operation once Mugunga III is ready for occupation. "Everything has its starting point," noted Ibrahima Coly, head of the UNHCR office in Goma. "From today's experience, we can plan better," he added.

Construction work is continuing at Mugunga III, but the new site is expected to be ready in the next few days. The most vulnerable families in Kibati will be moved by vehicle, but most people will have to go by foot. The move is completely voluntary.

Fighting in North Kivu intensified at the end of 2006. By January 2008, it had brought the total number of IDPs in the region to more than 800,000. Since the fighting resumed in August, some 250,000 civilians have fled, many of them already displaced. Some 27,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring Uganda in the same period.

By David Nthengwe in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo




Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

The process of relocating refugees from one site to a safer one is full of challenges. In Burkina Faso, the UN refugee agency has been working with partner organizations and the government to move thousands of Malian refugee families away from border sites like Damba to a safer camp some 100 kilometres to the south. Working under hot and harsh conditions, the aid workers had to dismantle shelters and help people load their belongings onto trucks for the journey. The new site at Mentao is also much easier to access with emergency assistance, including shelter, food, health care and education. These images, taken by photographer Brian Sokol, follow the journey made by Agade Ag Mohammed, a 71-year-old nomad, and his family from Damba to Mentao in March. They fled their home in Gao province last year to escape the violence in Mali, including a massacre that left two of his sons, a brother and five nephews dead. As of mid-April 2013 there were more than 173,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries. Within the arid West African nation there are an estimated 260,000 internally displaced people.

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

Since fighting broke out in Sudan's western region of Darfur last year, more than 110,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad. They are scattered along a 600-km stretch of desert borderland under a scorching sun during the day and freezing temperatures during the night.

Access to these refugees in this inhospitable region is difficult. Staff of the UN refugee agency drive for days to locate them. Bombing in the border zone and cross-border raids by militia from Sudan put the refugees at risk and underscore the urgent need to move them to camps in the interior. In addition, the approach of the rainy season in May will make the sandy roads impassable. Aid workers are racing against time in an attempt bring emergency relief to these refugees.

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

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

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