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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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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

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

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.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

The Central African Republic Crisis: Hardship and ResiliencePlay video

The Central African Republic Crisis: Hardship and Resilience

As the conflict drags on in CAR, the UN refugee agency and its partners appeal for more support to help over 425,000 refugees in four neighbouring countries.
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.
UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR  and CameroonPlay video

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.