UNHCR resumes aid distribution for 100,000 at Bangui airport

Making a Difference, 9 January 2014

© UNHCR/B.Ntwari
Family members carry away aid they have just received at the distribution organized by UNHCR and WFP at the airport site in Bangui.

BANGUI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Central African Republic, January 9 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has resumed distribution of relief items to the estimated 100,000 people who have fled to Bangui International Airport to escape sectarian violence in the capital city of the Central African Republic.

"It is a relief for UNHCR and the displaced people staying at the airport site. We had to suspend distribution of aid on several occasions, and were frustrated that we could not properly assist people living on this site due to security concerns," said Kouassi Lazare Etien, UNHCR's representative in the Central African Republic.

The joint distribution of food provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) and relief items from UNHCR resumed Tuesday. The refugee agency will distribute blankets, sleeping mats, soap, mosquito nets, jerry cans and plastic sheets to some 20,000 families, or about 100,000 people.

Earlier attempts to distribute the aid were frustrated by scenes of chaos as young and armed people tried to get relief items as quickly as possible, overwhelming the staff of UNHCR and its partners.

A new distribution mechanism, involving the displaced communities and humanitarian agencies, has been devised. French and African Union peace-keepers are providing security to ensure order, avert chaos and guarantee the civilian character of the site.

"People at the airport are living in a desperate situation. UNHCR, with its partners has been able to relocate some 2,400 families to another site inside the airport zone to help reduce congestion and support a smooth delivery of aid," Etien said.

The problems with aid delivery had begun to cause hardship among the tens of thousands at the airport site, but people were too scared to try and return to their homes and they called for greater security.

"International and national soldiers . . . around the airport should step in to allow the smooth distribution of assistance to take place," said Sophie, who had fled from Bangui's violence-torn PK15 district and was worried about the delays in getting aid. The 45-year-old, talking to UNHCR late last week in the airport customs area, was selling small parcels of cassava paste to survive.

Religious leaders also called on their youth to end violent and other abusive behaviour that was halting aid distributions. "We talked and I made them understand that their bad behaviour and aggressiveness were preventing people from getting assistance," said a priest at the airport site.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and its partners have developed a strategy to assist displaced people at the site with food delivery, health care, water, sanitation, shelter and non-food items.

UNHCR is the lead agency responding to the needs of internally displaced people for protection, shelter and relief items. So far, the agency has distributed non-food items and shelter materials to almost 30,000 people at 13 sites in Bangui and two in Bossangoa, 300 kilometres north of the capital.

More than 935,000 people in the Central African Republic are displaced with above 512,000 of them taking shelter across 67 sites in Bangui, or living with host families. Some 60 per cent of the forcibly displaced are children.

By Bernard Ntwari in Bangui International Airport, Central African Republic

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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

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

Waves of fighting in eastern Democratic of the Republic since late April have displaced tens of thousands of people. Many have become internally displaced within the province, while others have fled to south-west Uganda's Kisoro district or to Rwanda via the Goma-Gisenyi crossing.

The stop-start clashes between government forces and renegade soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda began in the province's Masisi and Walikale territories, but subsequently shifted to Rutshuru territory, which borders Uganda.

Between May 10-20, one of UNHCR's local NGO partners registered more than 40,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Jomba and Bwesa sectors.

The IDPs are living in difficult conditions, staying in school buildings and churches or with host families. They lack food and shelter and have limited access to health facilities. Some of the displaced have reported cases of extortion, forced labour, beatings and recruitment of minors to fight.

UNHCR and other major aid organizations plan to distribute food, medicine and other aid. More than 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in North and South Kivu since the start of the year, according to UN figures.

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Internally Displaced in Chad

In scenes of devastation similar to the carnage across the border in Darfur, some 20 villages in eastern Chad have been attacked, looted, burned and emptied by roving armed groups since 4 November. Hundreds of people have been killed, many more wounded and at least 15,000 displaced from their homes.

Some 7,000 people have gathered near Goz Beida town, seeking shelter under trees or wherever they can find it. As soon as security permits, UNHCR will distribute relief items. The UN refugee agency has already provided newly arrived IDPs at Habila camp with plastic sheeting, mats, blankets and medicine. The agency is scouting for a temporary site for the new arrivals and in the meantime will increase the number of water points in Habila camp.

The deteriorating security situation in the region and the effect it might have on UNHCR's operation to help the refugees and displaced people, is of extreme concern. There are 90,000 displaced people in Chad, as well as 218,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in eastern Chad.

Posted on 30 November 2006

Internally Displaced in Chad

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