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Most Congolese refugees in Zambia tell UNHCR they want to go home

News Stories, 11 February 2009

© UNHCR/J.Redden
A Congolese family in Kala Camp. The population has fallen steadily over the past two years.

LUSAKA, Zambia, February 11 (UNHCR) A UNHCR exercise in advance of the resumption of organized voluntary repatriation in May found some 90 percent of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in two camps in northern Zambia are willing to return home.

The verification exercise was conducted late last month by the government of Zambia and UNHCR at the Kala and Mwange refugee camps to learn the exact number of refugees, identify those with special needs, update bio-data and collect information on their intention to return to DRC.

It found 10,583 refugees intend to repatriate this year from Mwange and 8,099 from Kala. In addition, some want to go home next year. Others remain undecided. In view of the interest to repatriate in 2009, UNHCR and the government plan to intensify the information campaign it has been carrying out.

"Our intention is to ensure that we maintain this high interest by the refugees to return to DRC by intensifying the dissemination of information to them on the conditions in the areas of return," said James Lynch, UNHCR representative in Zambia.

Kiros Zewdie, the UNHCR associate registration officer based in Lusaka who coordinated the process, said the survey found lower numbers than previously recorded. He attributed it to refugees returning to DRC without reporting to authorities in the camp, while some could have left the camps for piece-work. There were also some cases of duplication with children appearing on both parents' ration cards.

"After verification, we found that the population of the Kala camp had decreased to 11,971 a difference of 977 persons as our records previously accounted for 12,768 persons," he said. "In Mwange, the population had gone down from 14,429 persons to 12,771, a difference of 1,658."

The exercise sets the stage for the resumption of the assisted voluntary repatriation programme in May after the rainy season. More than 16,000 Congolese refugees have repatriated from Zambia to the DRC in the past two years.

"The verification exercise for Congolese refugees at the Kala and Mwange camps was important for the government and UNHCR to update the database and to plan better for their assistance, protection needs and possible durable solutions, such as voluntary repatriation," said Mr. Lynch.

The verification was conducted simultaneously in Kala and Mwange, with support from the office of the Commissioner for Refugees of the Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as UNHCR's implementing partners.

Zambia hosts more than 83,000 refugees from DRC, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia. While some are accommodated in camps and settlements, others have settled themselves.

By Kelvin Shimo in Lusaka, Zambia





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

DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

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

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The recording, verifying, and updating of information on people of concern to UNHCR so they can be protected and UNHCR can ultimately find durable solutions.

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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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.

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