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2015 UNHCR country operations profile - Democratic Republic of the Congo

| Overview |

Working environment

UNHCR 2015 DRC country operations map

  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is characterized by ongoing conflict, poor or non-existent infrastructure and highly challenging logistics, all of which make access to refugees and other populations of concern quite difficult. Due mainly to the conflict in the eastern part of the country, approximately 430,000 refugees from the DRC remain in neighbouring countries, particularly Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

  • As of August 2014, approximately 70,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) who sought refuge from the deteriorating situation in their country of origin benefitted from UNHCR's protection and assistance activities in the DRC, in addition to refugees from Burundi and Rwanda.

  • The scale of displacement within and outside the DRC remains serious. There are some 2.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs) within the country in 2014 due to ongoing armed conflict in the east. UNHCR has the leading role in the protection cluster, as well as in the shelter cluster, and plays a significant role in the camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) cluster working groups.

  • Tripartite agreements for the voluntary repatriation of Congolese (DRC) refugees exist with neighbouring countries but ongoing insecurity hampers large-scale repatriation to the east of the DRC.

People of concern

The main groups of people of concern to UNHCR in 2015 include: refugees from the CAR who fled insecurity and violence in their country; IDPs living in camps or with host families who fled the armed conflict in the east; Angolan refugees residing in the DRC who have not opted for voluntary repatriation following the application of the cessation clause or have been exempted; Rwandan refugees in the eastern DRC; and Congolese (DRC) returnees who have been repatriated from neighbouring countries, particularly Burundi, the CAR, the Congo and Uganda.

UNHCR 2015 planning figures for Democratic Republic of the Congo
Type of population Origin January 2015 December 2015
Total in country Of whom assisted
by UNHCR
Total in country Of whom assisted
by UNHCR
Total 3,890,830 2,654,370 3,793,290 2,606,840
Refugees Central African Rep. 75,000 25,000 50,000 30,000
Rwanda 129,440 20,000 109,440 20,000
Various 2,150 2,150 2,240 2,240
Asylum-seekers Burundi 280 280 190 190
Rwanda 110 110 140 140
Somalia 20 20 20 20
Various 130 130 110 110
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-refugees) Dem. Rep. of the Congo 53,640 53,640 41,100 41,100
Internally displaced Dem. Rep. of the Congo 2,658,000 1,860,600 2,658,000 1,860,600
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-IDPs) Dem. Rep. of the Congo 932,060 652,440 932,060 652,440
Others of concern Angola 40,000 40,000 - -

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In 2015, refugees from the CAR will benefit from protection and multi-sectoral assistance in camps and host communities, where access permits. To reduce dependency on food aid, particular attention will be placed on promoting self-reliance and livelihoods activities. Starting with a nutritional survey to be conducted in June 2015, a differentiated strategy will be designed and pursued to reduce dependency, through the reduction of food assistance to refugees.

The repatriation of Angolan refugees from the DRC is expected to end by 30 June 2015. Also, the local integration process for the remaining Angolan refugees will continue to be implemented, with a view to phasing it out by 2016.

Refugees will continue to be registered and to receive documentation that enhances their protection. The identification and implementation of appropriate durable solutions will also be the focus of UNHCR's work in the DRC, while continuing to monitor permanent access to asylum and respect for the principle of non-refoulement for those who seek international protection. UNHCR will work with the Government and communities to minimize risks of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and other human rights violations. With the authorities, it will also seek to assure the civilian character of asylum.

Through community outreach and work with civil society, UNHCR will also support community-based protection and greater self-reliance among urban refugee households with specific needs.

The Office will continue to seek durable solutions for Congolese (Republic of the Congo) and Rwandan refugees, within the framework of the existing tripartite agreements and the comprehensive strategy for the Rwandan refugee situation.

To advance the reintegration of DRC returnees, the Office will promote peaceful coexistence by conducting reconciliation and conflict-resolution activities in local communities, pursuing and encouraging the involvement of other UN agencies and development actors, while addressing basic education, health and shelter needs within a comprehensive protection framework.

UNHCR's IDP strategy will be based on its efforts in assisting the Government to enact IDP legislation and, if possible, assist its implementation both technically and operationally together with all relevant actors in the country. UNHCR will also encourage community-based protection, in collaboration with the full range of partners, and support the development of a return-conducive environment. UNHCR's coordination role in the protection cluster will continue to aim at strengthening protection activities, projects and advocacy efforts, with particular attention to protection of IDPs from SGBV and from the physical and psychological effects of conflict. UNHCR is part of a national strategy to combat SGBV, coordinating working groups to prevent SGBV and implementing the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) approach.

| Implementation |

Coordination

In 2015, UNHCR's main governmental partner in the DRC will continue to be the Commission Nationale pour les Réfugiés within the Ministry of Interior, particularly in the areas of refugee registration and assistance.

Leading the protection and shelter clusters in the context of internal displacement, UNHCR will continue to collaborate with national and international partners present in the country, and support building the capacity of partner NGOs.

As lead of the Protection and Prevention Pillar of the National Strategy to combat SGBV in the DRC, UNHCR will continue to coordinate the Protection and Prevention Working Groups in eastern DRC and to co-lead the SAFE approach with the Ministry of Gender.

2015 UNHCR partners in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Implementing partners
NGOs: Agence de Développement Économique et Social, Agir pour le Genre, Association pour le Développement Social et la Sauvegarde de l'Environnement, Actions et Interventions pour le Développement et l'Encadrement Social, African Initiatives for Relief and Development, Cooperazione Internationale, Encadrement des Réfugiés Urbains de Kinshasa, International Emergency and Development Aid, INTERSOS, Mouvement International des Droits de l'Enfant, de la Femme, de l'Homme veuf et de leur Promotion Sociale, Search for Common Ground, Terre Sans Frontières, Women for Women International
Operational partners
Government agencies: Commission Nationale pour les Réfugiés
Others: FAO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, UN-Women

| Financial information |

The financial requirements for UNHCR's operation in the DRC increased from USD 139.6 million in 2011 to a revised 2014 budget of USD 216.4 million. This was mainly due to the ongoing influx of refugees from the CAR, as well as continued IDP movements and the return of Congolese (DRC) refugees from neighbouring countries.

In 2015, the financial requirements for the DRC are set at USD 216.3 million in anticipation of the growing number of Central African refugees. Unmet needs in food security, health, water and sanitation, non-food items, shelter and education would impact UNHCR's protection mandate and put refugees at risk of exploitation and SGBV.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update

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Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Democratic Republic of the Congo [1]
Refugees [2] 113,362
Asylum Seekers [3] 1,461
Returned Refugees [4] 68,428
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 2,963,799
Returned IDPs [6] 595,200
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 71,257
Total Population of Concern 3,813,507
Originating from Democratic Republic of the Congo [1]
Refugees [2] 499,541
Asylum Seekers [3] 64,043
Returned Refugees [4] 68,428
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 2,963,799
Returned IDPs [6] 595,200
Various [8] 87
Total Population of Concern 4,191,098

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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

Uprooted by the Lord's Resistance Army

Renewed attacks this year by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in north-east Democratic Republic of the Congo have led to the forced displacement of thousands of civilians. At least 33 villages have been attacked since January by the Ugandan rebel group, including 13 in March alone. More than 4,230 people have been displaced, some of them for the second or third time. These internally displaced people (IDP) are living with host families or in IDP settlements in and around the town of Dungu in Orientale province. They rely on the hospitality of the local population as well as humanitarian assistance from organizations such as UNHCR. The dearest hope of everyone in the region is to live in safety and peace. Some 335,000 people have been displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a result of LRA violence since 2008.

Uprooted by the Lord's Resistance Army

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

The UN refugee agency has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some 43,000 Angolans have said they want to go back home under a project that was suspended four years ago for various reasons. A first group of 252 Angolan civilians left the UNHCR transit centre in the western DRC town of Kimpese on November 4, 2011 They crossed the border a few hours later and were warmly welcomed by officials and locals in Mbanza Congo. In the first two weeks of the repatriation operation, more than 1,000 Angolan refugees returned home from the DRC provinces of Bas-Congo in the west and Katanga in the south. Out of some 113,000 Angolan refugees living in neighbouring countries, 80,000 are hosted by the DRC.

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

The Kigeme refugee camp in Rwanda's Southern province was reopened in June 2012 after thousands of Congolese civilians started fleeing across the border when fighting erupted in late April between Democratic Republic of the Congo government forces and fighters of the rebel M23 movement. Built on terraced hills, it currently houses more than 14,000 refugees but was not significantly affected by the latest fighting in eastern Congo, which saw the M23 capture the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, before withdrawing. While many of the adults long for lasting peace in their home region, the younger refugees are determined to resume their education. Hundreds enrolled in special classes to help them prepare for the Rwandan curriculum in local primary and secondary schools, including learning different languages. In a camp where more than 60 per cent of the population are aged under 18 years, the catch-up classes help traumatized children to move forward, learn and make friends.

Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

Nyakabande: A haven in Uganda from the storm in North Kivu

The Nyakabande Transit Centre in southern Uganda was reopened by UNHCR and the Ugandan government in February 2012 to cope with a growing number of Congolese civilians crossing the border to escape general lawlessness in Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) North Kivu province. Initially designed to cope with 500 people, the transit centre has been swamped with new arrivals fleeing waves of violence since April between DRC government forces and fighters from the rebel M23 movement. UNHCR helped expand capacity to 11,000 people and arranged transport from the border, but the inflow placed a severe strain on the facilities. The centre has registered and assisted more than 51,000 people since January, most of them from North Kivu. At its peak, last July, the transit centre was hosting more than 10,000 refugees. In a bid to decongest the centre, UNHCR provided transport for more than 30,000 Congolese to the refugee settlement at Rwamwanja, some 350 kilometres to the north of Nyakabande. For many of those fleeing eastern DRC, Nyakabande was a beacon of hope and a haven from the storm convulsing their home region. The latest fighting in North Kivu in November has not had much of an impact, but people still arrive daily.

Nyakabande: A haven in Uganda from the storm in North Kivu

Keeping Busy in Rwanda's Kiziba Camp

Rwanda's Kiziba Camp was opened in December 1996, after the start of civil war in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The facility was constructed to help cope with the influx of tens of thousands of Congolese refugees at that time. Some of the refugees have since returned to their homes in eastern DRC, but about 16,000 remain at the remote hilltop camp located in the Western province of Rwanda. Fresh violence last year in DRC's North Kivu province did not affect the camp because new arrivals were accommodated in the reopened Kigeme Camp in Rwanda's Southern province. Most of the refugees in Kiziba have said they do not want to return, but the prospects of local integration is limited by factors such as a lack of land and limited access to employment. In the meantime, people try to lead as normal a life as possible, learning new skills and running small businesses to help them become self-sufficient. For the youth, access to sports and education is very important to ensure that they do not become sidetracked by negative influences as well as to keep up their spirits and hopes for the future.

Keeping Busy in Rwanda's Kiziba Camp

Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

In the first ten days of May 2012, more than 6,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo crossed into Rwanda, fleeing fighting between the Congolese army and renegade soldiers. UNHCR and its UN partners worked with the Rwandan government to provide the refugees with humanitarian assistance in the early stages of the crisis, and to find solutions until it is safe for them to return.

Some of the refugees walked for days before reaching the Goma-Gisenyi border crossing between Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They came with their belongings, including mattresses, clothing, perhaps a few toys for the children. The images are from the border and from the Nkamira Transit Centre, located 22 kilometres inside Rwanda. Accommodation at Nkamira is poor: the centre can only host up to 5,400 individuals. It is only temporary shelter, but numbers continue to swell as hundreds cross the border every day.

Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UNHCR's 2013 Nansen Refugee Award Winner

Sister Angélique Namaika, a Congolese nun who has shown exceptional courage and unwavering support for survivors of violence in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been selected as the 2013 winner of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Ugandan rebel group, has waged a campaign of violence that has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people in north-eastern DRC's Orientale province over the past decade. Many Congolese women and girls have been kidnapped and terrorized.

Sister Angélique has been a beacon of hope for these victims, known for her very personal, one-on-one approach to help survivors move beyond their trauma. Many of the people under her care have been forcibly displaced and subjected to sexual violence.

The brutality of the LRA is notorious and the testimonials of the women Sister Angélique has helped are horrific. Adding to their trauma is the fact that many of the victims are stigmatized by society because of their experience. It takes a special person to help them heal and rebuild their lives.

This Year's Nansen Refugee Award winner has spent the past decade helping women, mostly through a combination of income-generation activities, skills development courses, literacy training and psycho-social counselling. She has made a positive difference to the lives of thousands of individuals, their families and communities.

UNHCR's 2013 Nansen Refugee Award Winner

Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

Antonio has been waiting 40 years to return to his home village in northern Angola. He fled to Democratic Republic of the Congo when the country was a Portuguese colony, and stayed away through years of civil war and during the peace that followed in 2002. Now, no longer classed as a refugee, he is finally going back.

Seated in a rickety chair in his family's rented apartment in Kinshasa on the eve of his departure, the 66-year-old Angolan was excited. "I feel joy when I think that I will go home. It's better to be a citizen of your own country than a refugee in another country. It's liberation," he said, flanked by his wife, sister and granddaughter.

Photographer Brian Sokol followed the four of them as they began their journey in Kinshasa on August 19, taking a seven-hour train journey to the town of Kimpese in Bas-Congo province and then reaching the border by bus. They were among the first group to go back home with the help of UNHCR under a third and final voluntary repatriation programme since 2002. The family faces many new challenges in Angola, but their joy was far greater than any apprehension. "I will dance when we arrive at the border," said Antonio's sister, Maria. UNHCR is organizing the return of nearly 30,000 former refugees to Angola.

Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

On the Road: UNHCR Transfers Congolese Refugees to A Home in Uganda

In mid-July 2013, thousands of Congolese refugees began pouring over the border from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into Bundibugyo district in western Uganda. They were fleeing fighting triggered when a Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, attacked the town of Kamango in DRC's troubled North Kivu province. Many stayed in the mountainous border area, but others gravitated to the Bubukwanga Transit Centre deeper inside Uganda. Here, they were provided with protection and aid by the government, UNHCR and its partners. But the transit centre, with a capacity to hold 12,500 people, was soon overcrowded and people were encouraged to move to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement located 280 kilometres to the north in Hoima District. Since the first convoy left Bubukwanga for Kyangwali on August 14, more than 11,000 people have relocated to the settlement, where they have access to more comprehensive and long-term services. Photographer Michele Sibiloni recently visited Bubukwanga and followed a convoy of refugees as they made their way to the Kyangwali settlement.

On the Road: UNHCR Transfers Congolese Refugees to A Home in Uganda

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Katanga province have long referred to the region between the towns of Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto as the "triangle of death." Despite the presence of UN peace-keepers and government military successes in other parts of the country, the situation in the resources-rich Katanga has been getting worse over the past two years. Conflict between a secessionist militia group and the government and between the Luba (Bantu) and Twa (Pygmy) ethnic groups has left thousands dead and forcibly displaced more than 400,000 people since 2012, including over 70,000 in the last three months. UNHCR has expressed its "deep concern" about the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in northern Katanga. The violence includes widescale looting and burning of entire villages and human rights' violations such as murder, mass rape and other sexual violence, and the forced military recruitment of children.

The limited presence of humanitarian and development organizations is a serious problem, leading to insufficient assistance to displaced people who struggle to have access to basic services. There are 28 sites hosting the displaced in northern Katanga and many more displaced people live in host communities. While UNHCR has built some 1,500 emergency shelters since January, more is needed, including access to health care, potable water, food and education. The following striking photographs by Brian Sokol for UNHCR show some of the despair and suffering.

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

Statelessness Around the World

At least 10 million people in the world today are stateless. They are told that they don't belong anywhere. They are denied a nationality. And without one, they are denied their basic rights. From the moment they are born they are deprived of not only citizenship but, in many cases, even documentation of their birth. Many struggle throughout their lives with limited or no access to education, health care, employment, freedom of movement or sense of security. Many are unable to marry, while some people choose not to have children just to avoid passing on the stigma of statelessness. Even at the end of their lives, many stateless people are denied the dignity of a death certificate and proper burial.

The human impact of statelessness is tremendous. Generations and entire communities can be affected. But, with political will, statelessness is relatively easy to resolve. Thanks to government action, more than 4 million stateless people acquired a nationality between 2003 and 2013 or had their nationality confirmed. Between 2004 and 2014, twelve countries took steps to remove gender discrimination from their nationality laws - action that is vital to ensuring children are not left stateless if their fathers are stateless or unable to confer their nationality. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 42 accessions to the two statelessness conventions - indication of a growing consensus on the need to tackle statelessness. UNHCR's 10-year Campaign to End Statelessness seeks to give impetus to this. The campaign calls on states to take 10 actions that would bring a definitive end to this problem and the suffering it causes.

These images are available for use only to illustrate articles related to UNHCR statelessness campaign. They are not available for archiving, resale, redistribution, syndication or third party licensing, but only for one-time print/online usage. All images must be properly credited UNHCR/photographer's name

Statelessness Around the World

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Shared Experience Binds Hosts and Refugees Across the Oubangui River

The Oubangui River is a vital source of food and water for the hundreds of thousands living along its 1,000-kilometre-long course, and many rely on it for transport, trade and agriculture. The river, forming the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with Central African Republic and Republic of Congo, has also been a life-saving bridge to safety for people fleeing the waves of violence that plague this deprived region - and a route back home when peace returns. This year, more than 40,000 terrified people have fled conflict in Central African Republic and crossed the river to find shelter in DRC's Equateur and Oriental provinces. Here they have received a warm welcome from the local people, many of whom know exactly what it is like to be a refugee. Time and again, newly arrived refugees from CAR seek out people they once hosted in Bangui and other places along the river. And these old friends are offering them and their families places in already cramped homes, and sharing their meagre resources. Photographer Brian Sokol recently travelled to Equateur province to document the extraordinary bond between the refugees and host communities. These are some of his striking portraits of hosts and their guests. They know that one day their roles could be reversed by the ebb and flow of violence.

Shared Experience Binds Hosts and Refugees Across the Oubangui River

The suffering and strength of displaced Congolese women

During the ceaseless cycle of violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is the vulnerable who suffer the most, especially women and children. The issue of widespread sexual and gender-based violence is a major concern for UNHCR, but it never goes away. The refugee agency has received dozens of reports of rape and assault of women during the latest wave of fighting between government forces and rebel troops as well as militia groups in North and South Kivu provinces. It is an area where rape is used as a weapon of war.

The fear of sexual and physical violence forces thousands of women to seek refuge away from their homes or across the border in countries such as Rwanda and Uganda. Often their menfolk remain behind and women become the heads of household, looking after young children. They are the bedrock of society, yet they are often the first to suffer when instability comes to their home areas.

The following images were taken recently in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda by Frédèric Noy. They depict Congolese women who have fled their homes, leaving almost everything behind, and sought shelter in a place they hope will be better than where they came from. In many ways they have become inured to hardship, but so many of them continue to retain hope for themselves and their children. And that is an inspiration to those who help them.

The suffering and strength of displaced Congolese women

Congolese in Uganda: from flight to settlement

After three years of relative peace, waves of combat erupted again in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province in April 2012, causing major population displacement. Fighting in North Kivu's Rutshuru territory between government forces and rebel fighters from the M23 movement caused tens of thousands of Congolese civilians to seek shelter across the border in Uganda, mainly in the Kisoro district. Many joined UNHCR-organized convoys to the settlement of Rwamwanja, which was opened last April to deal with the influx. By the end of 2012, the settlement was hosting more than 30,000 refugees. Each refugee family is given a plot of land on which to construct a home and plant crops and encouraged to become self-sufficient. UNHCR wants to urgently improve infrastructure at the settlement and has appealed for supplementary funding.

This photo set follows one family at Rwamwanja, led by 52-year-old Harerimana. The family lived in the Rutshuru town of Bitwo but fled when it came under attack last June. Harerimana became separated from his family and spent five days on the road on his own before finding his relatives in the forest. After two weeks, they crossed into Uganda and reached Nyakabande Transit Centre. They then registered to be moved to Rwamwanja, where the extended family now lives on two plots of land.

Congolese in Uganda: from flight to settlement

Uncertain future for displaced family in eastern Congo camp

Barely six months after heavy fighting erupted in late April in eastern Congo's North Kivu province, the rebel M23 movement of army defectors captured the provincial capital of Goma from government forces. The rebel advance caused tens of thousands to flee their homes, adding to the more than 220,000 civilians displaced in the province during the earlier waves of violence and lawlessness since April. Ten-year-old Sukuru and his family were in Mugunga III camp for the internally displaced when Goma fell on November 20, having fled their home in North Kivu's Masisi territory months before.

They have suffered multiple displacement in the past, but are currently relatively safe in Mugunga III though in need of aid. Their ordeal of flight is similar to that suffered by many others, though in the haste to flee their village earlier this year, Sukuru became separated from his parents for a few days. UNHCR followed their lives in Mugunga III. Despite the latest setbacks, Sukuru remains hopeful about the future.

Uncertain future for displaced family in eastern Congo camp

International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

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.

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

The crisis in North Kivu continues

Insecurity in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province continues, with more than 500,000 people internally displaced, many for the second or third time. Armed combat, persecution of civilians, killings, abductions, sexual abuse and forced recruitment of children still lead to displacement. Reports of rapes and murders number in the thousands. Some 176,000 of the displaced live in Masisi District, including 49,000 hosted in 19 camps. Conditions are harsh, with entire families living in one-room ramshackle huts with no water or services. UNHCR is very concerned about the security situation, living conditions and the future of the displaced. Even though some 36,000 people living in camps in North Kivu managed to return home in 2010, approximately 72,000 remain.

UNHCR is coordinating 31 camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in the whole of North Kivu, providing emergency assistance. UNHCR is facing enormous challenges in terms of access to the areas where the IDPs are hosted and continues to plead for humanitarian access to assist the people in need.

The crisis in North Kivu continues

Congo's river refugees

More than 100,000 Congolese refugees have crossed the Oubangui River in search of safety in neighbouring Republic of the Congo since inter-ethnic violence erupted in their home areas late last year. They fled from Equateur province in the north-west of Democratic Republic of the Congo after Enyele militiamen launched deadly assaults in October on ethnic Munzayas over fishing and farming rights in the Dongo area. The tensions have spread to other parts of the province.

The majority of the displaced are camping in public buildings and some 100 sites along a 600-kilometre stretch of the Oubangui River, including with host communities. The massive influx is stretching the meagre resources of the impoverished and remote region. Help is urgently needed for both the refugees and the host communities.

The relief operation is logistically complex and expensive because the region can only be reached by plane or boat. However, few boats are available and most are in need of repair. Fuel is expensive and difficult to procure.

Congo's river refugees

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate
Play video

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate

The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.

Uganda: New Camp, New ArrivalsPlay video

Uganda: New Camp, New Arrivals

Recent fighting in eastern Congo has seen thousands of civilians flee to a new camp, Bubukwanga, in neighboring Uganda.

DR Congo: Tears of RapePlay video

DR Congo: Tears of Rape

Eastern DRC remains one of the most dangerous places in Africa, particularly for women.
DRCongo: North Kivu's Displaced Need Help.  Play video

DRCongo: North Kivu's Displaced Need Help.

The recent fighting in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province displaced tens of thousands of civilians. They need help in camps like Mugunga I.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Kimoka ReturneesPlay video

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Kimoka Returnees

Conflict forced hundreds of thousands of Congolese to flee their homes in North Kivu province in 2007-2008. The villagers of Kimoka are finally returning.
Refugees in Republic of CongoPlay video

Refugees in Republic of Congo

Tens of thousands of people have reportedly fled a wave of ethnic violence in the north-west of the embattled Democratic Republic of the Congo. The civilians have fled from Equateur province, crossing the Ubangi River and seeking shelter in Republic of the Congo.
High Commissioner Guterres visits eastern CongoPlay video

High Commissioner Guterres visits eastern Congo

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits some of the estimated 2.1 million displaced people in eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and asks for more international assistance.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Uncertain FuturePlay video

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Uncertain Future

While parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are still engulfed in conflict, South Kivu province in the east has achieved relative stability. In the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Congolese fled to Tanzania. A decade later many are coming home, but to an uncertain future
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Life in Limbo Play video

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Life in Limbo

In the continuing violence in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, women and children are often caught in the crossfire. While the camps for the displaced offer some security for single mothers like Fatuma Kapuweli, she fears for her children's safety and welfare.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Education for the fewPlay video

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Education for the few

The violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has caused more than 1 million people to flee their homes, including huge numbers of children. Efforts to make sure the displaced youngsters continue to receive an education face huge challenges.
Helping The Displaced in North KivuPlay video

Helping The Displaced in North Kivu

Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has frustrated relief efforts in the east of the country. It's estimated that more than 370,000 people have been uprooted since last December. But reaching the most needy has been complicated by the fighting, with roads and some villages cut off.
North Kivu: Education For the FewPlay video

North Kivu: Education For the Few

he violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has caused more than 1 million people to flee their homes, including huge numbers of children. Efforts to make sure the displaced youngsters continue to receive an education face huge challenges.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Camp SecurityPlay video

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Camp Security

For the internally displaced in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, safety is a rare commodity. The UN refugee agency manages 13 camps set up to help the displaced regain some sense of security. In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 100,000 internally displaced Congolese have sought safety in 13 camps run by the UN refugee agency. While the camps provide greater safety, an atmosphere of lawlessness pervades the region. Anyone who ventures outside the camps is a potential victim. In a conflict where rape has become a weapon, women are especially vulnerable.