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UNHCR seeks US$20 million to help tens of thousands of Congolese refugees

News Stories, 9 March 2010

© UNHCR/F.NOY/March 2010
Refugees live in huts made out of leaves in Gouga village, close to the border between the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

GENEVA, March 9 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency appealed on Tuesday for some US$20 million in funding to help it meet the needs of tens of thousands of civilians who have fled ethnic conflict in Democratic Republic of the Congo's Equateur province and sought shelter in neighbouring Republic of Congo.

"UNHCR's request is part of a broader appeal by UN agencies, who have so far received only US$17.3 million of the nearly US$59 million required this year for this crisis. We hope that donors will respond generously," UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva.

"Our concern is that four months into their exile, the refugees are still lacking basic humanitarian aid, despite our efforts. So far we've been able to cover just 30 per cent of the needs of this huge population for food, sanitation, shelter, health care and primary education," she added.

About 110,000 Congolese refugees have fled the ethnic violence in Equateur, crossed the Oubangui River and found shelter in northern Republic of Congo's (ROC) Likouala province since late last year. The vast majority, 82 per cent, are women and children.

They are dispersed in 100 sites in an area extending 600 kilometres along the Oubangui, further compounding the difficulties for humanitarian agencies in reaching them. Low river levels are preventing movement of heavy cargoes by boat and requiring UNHCR to ferry supplies in limited quantities or to fly them in.

"These funds are needed to increase our overall protection and logistical capacity for the operation. The funds will also be used to provide primary education for more than 20,000 refugee children, to supply more shelter, to procure additional relief items, to improve access to health and to expand sanitation," UNHCR's Fleming said. "The provision of clean water is also urgently required to curb water-related diseases common among the population who resort to drinking from the river."

UN partners in this appeal include the World Food Programme, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization, UNESCO, the UN Development Programme, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The refugees fled from Equateur province after fighting started in late October last year when Enyele militiamen launched deadly assaults on ethnic Munzayas over fishing and farming rights in the Dongo area. The tensions have since expanded to most parts of Equateur province, which drove an additional 18,000 refugees to flee to the Central African Republic.

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UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

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Chad's other refugee crisis

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The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

Posted on 5 February 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

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