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Democratic Republic of the Congo appeals launched

Briefing notes

Democratic Republic of the Congo appeals launched

13 February 2007

UNHCR is seeking $62 million for its 2007 programmes aimed at helping hundreds of thousands of Congolese refugees as well as internally displaced people within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) itself. We need $47 million this year to support the return and reintegration of some 98,500 Congolese refugees returning home, as well as a further $15 million to provide protection and assistance programmes for an estimated 1.1 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the DRC.

The two supplementary appeals - one for the refugees outside DRC and the other for the IDPs in the country - note that there have been some important developments in the DRC over the past year that have raised hopes that more Congolese will now opt to return to their homes. These developments include the inauguration of President Joseph Kabila in December in the country's first democratic elections in four decades. The relative stability has helped boost returnee figures. Since the start of repatriation operations in October 2004, some 89,000 Congolese refugees have repatriated from neighbouring countries, mostly to Equateur, South Kivu and Katanga provinces. In addition, nearly half a million IDPs went back to their places of origin last year.

Obviously, we want to see this momentum continue and are hoping donors will respond quickly and adequately to our appeal. As the High Commissioner notes in a press release just issued on the appeal, there is now a real window of opportunity to help uprooted Congolese return and rebuild their lives.

More than 400,000 Congolese remain in exile in nine neighbouring countries. They live in camps or designated areas and most have no resources to return on their own. Some have spent decades in exile, waiting for a lasting peace before going home.

The $47 million refugee portion of the appeal will cover voluntary repatriation programmes for Congolese from neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Republic of Congo and Zambia.

The $15 million for internally displaced people will go for programmes aimed at supporting them and those families and relatives who are hosting them. The number of IDPs in DRC fell by about a third last year as people went home, but there are still an estimated 1.1 million displaced within the country. The appeal says as many as 950,000 of the IDPs could return to their homes during 2007.

However, hundreds of thousands of Congolese were newly displaced last year due to localised outbreaks of fighting, and this remains a major concern for UNHCR. There is still an environment of widespread impunity in parts of the country and the human rights of the displaced are often violated. Eastern areas of the DRC remain volatile. The country is among the poorest in the world. Life expectancy is low. The rule of law is very weak and social and economic conditions are extremely difficult. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is high and exacerbated by the lack of basic health and education services. In addition, the poor transportation network makes the work of UNHCR and its partners even more difficult.