Uganda: DRC refugees return as fighting subsides
UNHCR teams which reached the south-western Ugandan town of Kisoro to check on reports of an influx earlier in the week of some 12,000 refugees fleeing fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), report many have returned home with only about 4,000 left in the district. Several thousand returned as soon as the fighting subsided and now others are following, they said. No new arrivals were reported. The situation in Kisoro is described as calm. The refugees, mainly women and children, fled to Kisoro when fighting erupted between DRC government forces and rebels some 100 kilometres north of Goma in North Kivu province.
Most of the Congolese refugees are accommodated in local schools and churches, but many are also spending the nights sleeping on the porches of private houses. UNHCR, and other UN agencies and NGOs operating in the area, are closely coordinating a response with the local authorities over water, sanitation and shelter issues.
Some 950 refugees moved to a site at Nyakabanda just south of Kisoro where we are working with the Ugandan Red Cross to install latrines and basic shelter. The water supply has been operational since Wednesday afternoon and the Kisoro district health authorities have started vaccinating refugee children for measles, polio and tetanus.
The local authorities from the DRC visited Kisoro on Wednesday encouraging refugees to return home. Almost all the Congolese are from villages close to the border with Uganda and have expressed their intention to return to the DRC as soon as conditions permit.
A similar influx of Congolese refugees took place in January and February this year when some 17,000 people entered Uganda. The majority of these refugees returned to their homes as soon as the situation stabilised, but some 3,500 remained in Uganda and were subsequently moved to Nakevale refugee settlements.
There are some 23,000 Congolese refugees in Uganda. Most of them fled from the DRC during the decades of civil war.