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DRC: Camp transfer continues despite precarious security situation

Briefing notes

DRC: Camp transfer continues despite precarious security situation

2 December 2008

UNHCR is continuing today the voluntary transfer of displaced Congolese civilians from the precarious Kibati camps on the northern outskirts of Goma, the provincial capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) volatile North Kivu province. They are being relocated to four existing camps just west of Goma. Our efforts had to be suspended on Sunday afternoon due to shooting, which also continued through the night. Altogether, four IDPs were wounded and taken to a local hospital.

Work is proceeding at the new Mugunga III camp, where the bulk of the Kibati population will be relocated. Meanwhile, we have also identified additional accommodation possibilities at the existing camps of Mugunga I and II, Buhimba and Bulengo, where all services are already running and we have been able to relocate the handicapped, sick, infants, pregnant women, elderly and other vulnerable displaced people since Friday.

Some 65,000 Congolese civilians sheltered in the two Kibati camps are in a precarious situation as the warring parties remain in close proximity. We fear that the civilian population could be caught in the crossfire should the fighting resume in this area.

Today's voluntary transfer is scheduled to take some 140 vulnerable families (close to 500 people) from the Kibati I camp to the Mugunga I camp. By the time of Sunday's suspension, we and our partners had already assisted more than 140 families to relocate to Mugunga I. Subsequent transfers will target displaced families currently sheltered in school blocks and portable tent warehouses which UNHCR has made available at Kibati.

Most of the IDPs will make the 15-kilometre journey from Kibati camps to the new Mugunga III on foot. Work on some 15 communal shelters (hangars) and other camp infrastructure continues in Mugunga III.

Five truckloads of aid items from UNHCR's regional emergency stockpile in Ngara, Tanzania, arrived in Goma over the weekend, delivering 30,000 blankets, 15,000 sleeping mats and 4,160 kitchen sets.

Meanwhile, reports from local partners in Kanyabayonga, some 150 km north of Goma, say that some 40,000 displaced people have managed to return to their homes. This is about 80 percent of the estimated number of people displaced there over the past weeks. Many of the returning families are arriving to looted and destroyed homes.

Some 3,000 IDPs are reported at Luofo village, some 20 km north-west Kanyabayonga.

Reports suggest that fighting further up north around Ishasha has abated after the visit there of the UN Special Envoy, former Nigerian President Oluseguna Obasanjo. Fighting around Ishasha, a town on the DRC-Uganda border, began on 22 November, forcing at least 13,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Uganda during the past week alone. The flow has now stopped.

Fighting in North Kivu intensified at the end of 2006. By January 2008, it had brought the total number of IDPs in the region to more than 800,000. Since fighting resumed in August, some 250,000 civilians have fled, many of them previously displaced.