Small emergencies in Africa combining into one budget problem

News Stories, 5 March 2009

© UNHCR/j.Warrenx
Congolese refugees reunite with family members at a UNHCR site in Makpandu, South Sudan. They fled attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

GENEVA, March 5 (UNHCR) Each influx seems relatively minor, but when added together UNHCR is seeing unexpected strains on its budget and operations as Somalis head to Ethiopia, people cross from the Central African Republic (CAR) to Chad and Congolese flee into two different countries.

While the UN refugee agency's country offices, with the support of Emergency Response Team deployments in each of these operations, have mounted excellent responses to these emergencies which are overshadowed in the media by other crises they have had to divert resources from their existing programmes and deplete stocks of non-food items.

Since late 2008, influxes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo have totalled a registered 10,000 refugees to South Sudan in the area around Yambio, an estimated 5,500 to the Yei area of South Sudan and an estimated 48,000 to Uganda. In addition, 7,200 people have been registered arriving in Chad from CAR and an estimated 10,000 Somalis have arrived in this new entry point in south-eastern Ethiopia.

"These emergencies, which may be perceived individually as quite manageable in view of their rather small scale, actually represent a considerable effort for the Africa Bureau if not helped with additional funding," said Mengesha Kebede, the bureau's deputy director for Sudan and Chad operations.

"Put altogether, these so-called 'small-scale' emergencies bring the number of new arrivals to more than 80,000 persons. And this number does not even take into account the new IDPs [internally displaced people] created by these crises," he added.

All the emergencies share key characteristics: they are relatively small-scale; they have emerged slowly with steady arrivals over months; they have occurred in remote locations that are difficult to reach and have no established UNHCR presence; and the initial response has come from existing resources at the expense of other planned activities.

In addition, all five situations are continuing and, depending on developments in the countries of origin, UNHCR must be prepared for the arrival of additional numbers. In each case, the refugees are unlikely to go home soon and will require care and maintenance for some time to come.

"Our response will require significant start-up investments to set up a UNHCR presence in very remote locations such as Dolo Ado in Ethiopia and Daha in Chad or to reopen an office in Yambio after it was closed only last year," said Kebede.

UNHCR will have to consider how to factor the extra refugee populations into planning for the 2010-2011 period that is about to start. But in the meantime the Africa Bureau will be presenting the immediate requirements for these unexpected emergencies to the Central Emergency Response Fund. This will include creation of posts and establishing offices, which can be very expensive to meet security standards.




A Time Between: Moving on from Internal Displacement in Uganda

This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

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

Donate to this crisis

Emergency Response

UNHCR is committed to increasing its ability to respond to complex emergency situations.

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Battling the Elements in Chad

More than 180,000 Sudanese refugees have fled violence in Sudan's Darfur region, crossing the border to the remote desert of eastern Chad.

It is one of the most inhospitable environments UNHCR has ever had to work in. Vast distances, extremely poor road conditions, scorching daytime temperatures, sandstorms, the scarcity of vegetation and firewood, and severe shortages of drinkable water have been major challenges since the beginning of the operation. Now, heavy seasonal rains are falling, cutting off the few usable roads, flooding areas where refugees had set up makeshift shelters, and delaying the delivery of relief supplies.

Despite the enormous environmental challenges, UNHCR has so far managed to establish nine camps and relocate the vast majority of the refugees who are willing to move from the volatile border.

Battling the Elements in Chad

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Uganda: A Father's TroublesPlay video

Uganda: A Father's Troubles

Forty-five-year-old Gabriel fled South Sudan with his wife and children to find safety in the UN compound in Bor. But, in April 2014, his wife was killed when an armed mob forced their way in, and now he is a single father to five children, seeking a better life in Uganda.
Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.