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Central African refugees moved to safer site, in face of LRA attack risks

Briefing Notes, 27 August 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 August 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This week UNHCR began transferring an estimated 1,500 Central African refugees scattered along a remote part of the Congolese border with the Central African Republic (CAR) to a newly constructed refugee camp, some 70 kilometers inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). These refugees had fled attacks by the Ugandan rebel group, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), between March and May this year and found shelter in several, isolated border villages in Bas-Uélé district in northern DRC.

The objective of this transfer has been to improve safety for the refugees by reducing the risk of new LRA attacks. In addition to protection and shelter, the new camp also allows provision of safe drinking water and better humanitarian access.

Difficult access conditions in places where the refugees have been settled, has meant that many have had to move to the new camp by foot. Together with the Congolese authorities, we have set up way stations and a transit centre along the route where refugees get cooked meals. The most vulnerable are being transported on motorbikes.

The rocky terrain of the new site, at Kpala-Kpala, has posed challenges in establishing the camp. In June and July UNHCR and its partners constructed emergency shelters and latrines as well as several water points. On arrival at the camp, all refugees are registered and receive food and other aid. The operation is run in close cooperation with UNHCR's partners and other UN aid agencies.

According to UN estimates, LRA attacks in the Central Africa Republic have forced some 15,000 people to flee their homes this year alone. Most remain internally displaced. Due to the logistical challenges of reaching refugees along the CAR-DRC border, we fear there may be others beyond our reach.

The LRA has been active in parts of CAR since 1993 (and since 1986 in Uganda) and has left a trail of killings and mayhem and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in the DRC and other neighbouring countries. Since December 2008, the LRA has displaced some 280,000 people in DRC's Haut and Bas-Uélé districts and forced nearly 20,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Sudan and the CAR.




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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

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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UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR and Cameroon

This video was shot by one of our staff* using a mobile phone as they helped refugees who had crossed the river to safety.
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