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DRC: Preparations begin for IDP registration in Katanga province

Briefing notes

DRC: Preparations begin for IDP registration in Katanga province

28 April 2006

UNHCR has begun preparations for the registration next week of thousands of internally displaced persons in the conflict ravaged Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The registration exercise, carried out in cooperation with MSF-Belgium, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday in the Mitwaba area of Katanga, and our teams are already in the region laying the groundwork.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are in several villages in the Mitwaba area, and between 50 and 100 more displaced are arriving every day after fleeing their villages earlier this year to escape attacks, harassment and abuse by the Mai Mai militia and government soldiers. UNHCR staff report that many of the new arrivals, after hiding for weeks in the bush, are in a terrible state, with few or no belongings and malnourished. Many are in a state of complete exhaustion and are suffering skin diseases.

A relative improvement in the security situation in recent weeks allowed them to come in from the bush to seek help at Mitwaba. Many walked 30 to 60 kilometres before reaching the area. In all, an estimated 170,000 Congolese have been displaced over the past six months in the Katanga province due to fighting between government forces and Mai Mai militia. The exact scale of the humanitarian crisis is difficult to assess, as the situation in Katanga is characterized by fragile security and an absence of passable roads across the vast savannah-type landscape.

Civilians are not only displaced, but face serious harassment and abuse by both sides. The abuse includes rape of women and children, looting and destruction of villages.

Once the Mitwaba registration is complete in about two weeks, we are planning to extend the registration to other IDP sites elsewhere in Katanga province. Many of them can only be reached by plane or helicopter. Parallel to the registration, NGOs and UN agencies are delivering aid to the IDPs, including MSF, UNICEF and WFP, which is air-dropping food rations to major IDP sites. But the current humanitarian assistance is far from enough.

An estimated 1.6 million Congolese are internally displaced, while some 420,000 remain in asylum as refugees in other countries.