UNHCR transfers hundreds of Congolese daily to new camp

Making a Difference, 18 July 2012

© UNHCR/A.Bronee
Kigeme camp stretching as far as the eye can see.

KIGEME, Rwanda, July 18 (UNHCR) In just a few weeks, UNHCR has built a new refugee camp in hilly terrain in southern Rwanda and transferred almost 10,000 Congolese refugees there from a crowded transit centre near the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A further 8,700 are waiting to be moved to the camp at Kigeme from the Nkamira transit centre, which lies about 20 kilometres from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province.

They were among almost 20,000 Congolese who registered at Nkamira after fleeing across the border since late April to escape violence in North Kivu, including fighting between government soldiers and rebel troops. A steady stream continues to arrive.

Once the government of Rwanda had decided in late May to create a new camp in a bid to decongest the Nkamira transfer centre, the authorities of Nyamagabe district swiftly mobilized the local community to start working.

UNHCR's expert site planners made sure that the camp layout would utilize as much space as possible in the hilly terrain, which meant creating terracing. It was hard work, but the work teams of hundreds of men and women wilding hoes and shovels finished the preliminary work in a matter of days.

It was enough to erect tents for 1,300 family tents (about 6,500 people). Fourteen large warehouse tents were also put up to provide shelter for families alongside 631 shelters made from wood and mud. The first convoy of refugees arrived on June 10.

While UNHCR and the government are in charge of overall coordination of the emergency assistance at Kigeme, many partner groups and UN agencies such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme provide assistance in key areas such as hygiene, water and sanitation, health and food.

The facilities include latrines for men and women and a small health post set up by NGO partner, African Humanitarian Action. But refugees with complex medical conditions can also be referred to the local hospital, just a few kilometres away. Arrangements have also been made for primary school-age children to soon start attending the nearby school.

It's a long five-hour bus ride to Kigeme from Nkamira Transit Centre, but the faces of new arrivals soon light up. Nyirasafari, 48, stepped off the bus with her 11-year-old son, Benjamin, in tow. "Here I can see small houses and I can see happy faces," she said, adding: "I have only been here for a few minutes, but I can tell it is better than Nkamira. There, many of us had nowhere to sleep, we stayed outside."

With return to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo unlikely for some time, an average of 500 people are being transported to Kigeme every day. Before the current influx, there were already 56,000 Congolese refugees living in three other camps (Giheme, Kiziba and Nyabiheke).around Rwanda, some for almost two decades.

Should their stay in Kigeme camp become protracted, UNHCR hopes to put every child in secondary school and to encourage adults to be self-reliant through livelihoods programmes that could also help them when they return home.

This is not the first time that Kigeme has been home to refugees. It hosted thousands of Burundians until May 2009, when they were able to repatriate without fearing for their safety. After they left, the site was reclaimed by nature wild grass and trees grew on the slopes, and cattle grazed where refugees now live. Now, with tents sprouting like mushrooms, the area is covered as far as the eye can see.

By Anouck Bronée in Kigeme, Rwanda




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

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