Kasai violence drives over 11,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Angola

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Displaced families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo line up for water at a camp near Goma in October 2012.  © UNHCR/Frederic Noy

A spike of violence in the Kasai Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has now forced over 11,000 refugees to seek safety in Angola. Border points and villages inside the Southern African nation have seen a sharp increase in refugee arrivals with over 9,000 arriving so far in April. The brutal conflict in Congo’s previously peaceful Kasai region has already displaced more than one million civilians within the country since it began in mid-2016.

Those fleeing into Angola continue to arrive mainly in Dundo, the capital of north-eastern Luanda Norte Province.

Refugees reported fleeing attacks from militia groups, who are targeting police, military officials, and civilians who they believe are supporting or representing the Government. After running away from fighting rebel and Government forces, some refugees had to hide in the forest for several days before fleeing to Angola. Refugees are arriving in desperate conditions, without access to clean water, food or shelter. 

The situation among children is dire, as many arriving malnourished and sick - suffering from diarrhea, fever and malaria. Two children are reported to have already died from severe malnutrition. UNHCR is concerned for the fate of others suffering from worrying levels of food insecurity and illnesses. 

The new arrivals are terrified and still fear for their lives and mentioned they do not have any immediate plans to return home. Some parents have reportedly sent their children across the border, worrying they would be forcibly recruited by the militias if they had stayed in the DRC.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is currently coordinating refugee response with the Government, local authorities and partners on the ground. We are also negotiating with the Government for proper hosting sites as the current border locations are overcrowded and not suitable. UNHCR is sending an additional emergency team to Dundo this Saturday to support relief efforts. 

UNHCR is in the process of shipping family tents, kitchens sets, blankets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and other essential relief items to the area. 

Further aid is urgently needed, as refugees are forced to stay in makeshift buildings in the border villages. Angola’s wet season peaks in April, and UNHCR is especially worried about the ongoing rains –– which could further complicate living conditions and the health of refugees, especially the most vulnerable such as women, children, the elderly and the disabled. 

UNHCR welcomes the response of the Government of Angola in keeping its borders open for continued refugee arrivals. We hope that this gesture of goodwill will continue as the situation remains dire in DRC’s Kasai region. UNHCR is also underlining the importance of not returning people in need of international protection to the DRC.  

 

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