Dramatic rise in numbers of Congolese returning home from Zambia

News Stories, 5 November 2009

© UNHCR/K.Barnes
A group of Congolese refugees aboard a bus that took them home earlier this year. More than 15,000 others have done the same this year, going back by boat or road vehicle.

LUSAKA, Zambia, November 5 (UNHCR) The number of Congolese refugees repatriated from Zambia this year has passed the 15,000 mark, a dramatic increase on the figures for 2007 and 2008.

On Wednesday evening, a UNHCR-chartered boat carrying 502 refugees left the Zambian port of Mpulungu on Lake Tanganyika and set sail for the lakeside towns of Moba and Kalemie in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

It brought the number of Congolese repatriated this year from Zambia with UNHCR help to more than 15,600. This compared to some 9,700 for the whole of last year and more than 7,300 in 2007. The 15,000 mark, itself, was passed a little earlier.

Senior UNHCR Programme Officer Kristine Hambrouck said the dramatic rise in return figures this year was due to a variety of reasons. These included stepped up information campaigns; visits by senior UNHCR staff, government officials and donors to the camps in Zambia; regular discussions with refugees on the conditions in DRC; enhanced return and reintegration packages; stability and development in return areas; and encouragement from those who have returned.

Zambian Deputy Minister of Home Affairs David Phiri and other dignitaries were on hand to wave farewell to the refugees at Mpulungu and to mark the passing of the 15,000 mark. Phiri thanked UNHCR, other partners and donors for helping Zambia reach the repatriation milestone.

UNHCR Representative to Zambia James Lynch said he was happy at the pace of voluntary repatriation this year, but called on more Congolese refugees to go home before the repatriation programme wraps up at the end of December. "UNHCR stands ready to assist any Congolese refugee who comes forward to repatriate," Lynch stressed.

Derek Fee, head of a European Commission delegation, noted that funding was increasingly being channelled towards reintegration projects in the DRC. He also urged more Congolese refugees to return home, where donors will help them reintegrate. The Commission part funds the repatriation programme.

Zambia currently hosts less than 30,000 Congolese refugees. Most fled their homeland a decade ago at the height of the civil strife in DRC.

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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

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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.

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Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

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