UNHCR begins registration of more than 100,000 Congolese refugees
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo, January 18 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has begun registering more than 100,000 civilians who have fled ethnic conflict in north-west Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and found shelter in neighbouring Republic of the Congo in the past three months.
Some 107,000 Congolese from DRC's Equateur province have fled across the Oubangui River into the north-eastern ROC department of Likouala since ethnic Enyele militiamen launched deadly assaults in late October on ethnic Munzayas over fishing and farming rights in the Dongo area of Equateur.
The registration exercise kicked off Saturday in Likouala's Betou district, which is hosting more than 60 per cent of the refugees. The rest are scattered in the district of Impfondo, further south in Likouala. Some 1,000 people have been registered to date.
A UNHCR spokesperson said the registration was "designed to ascertain the number of refugees and to properly identify them. We will also be profiling refugee families to determine their specific needs and cater our assistance programmes accordingly."
A team of about 50 people, comprising UNHCR staff and local authorities, is carrying out the registration on a 500-kilometre-long stretch of territory along the Oubangui.
The operation, which took several weeks to prepare, is logistically challenging as the majority of the refugees are in areas that can only be reached by boat.
The water levels are receding and UNHCR is running against time to complete the registration before the dry season starts in March and rivers become too low for navigation.
Meanwhile, the refugee agency continues to deliver emergency assistance to the widely dispersed refugees. "So far we were able to ferry 161 metric tonnes of aid material for some 50,000 refugees. This aid includes blankets, plastic sheeting for shelter, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, which are being handed to the most vulnerable as a matter of priority," the UNHCR spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, in the Central African Republic, where another 18,000 refugees from Equateur province have sought safety, UNHCR teams conducted a registration exercise in late December and continue to register new arrivals trickling in from the Libenge area.
Back in Equateur province, UNHCR is taking part in an inter-agency humanitarian assessment mission to identify the needs of an estimated 90,000 internally displaced people affected by the ethnic violence and tensions.