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DRC inter-communal clashes drive 16,000 refugees into Congo-Brazzaville

Briefing notes

DRC inter-communal clashes drive 16,000 refugees into Congo-Brazzaville

4 January 2019
Republic of Congo. Congolese refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo
A refugee mother carries her child and relief items in Congo-Brazzaville.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is supporting local authorities in the Republic of the Congo to provide humanitarian assistance to some 16,000 recently arrived refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

People are fleeing deadly clashes that erupted at the end of December 2018 between two communities in Yumbi, Mai-Ndombe Province, western DRC. An old rivalry between Banunus and Batende communities led to fresh inter-communal clashes. The reignited dispute is reported to have killed dozens, with around 150 injured arriving in Congo-Brazzaville.

This is the largest influx of refugees from the DRC in Congo-Brazzaville in almost in a decade, since some 130,000 people were forced to seek shelter due to ethnic clashes in DRC’s former Equator Province in 2009.

Refugees, mostly women and children of the Banunu tribe, continue to arrive in Makotipoko and Bouemba districts in the Republic of Congo where the Congolese authorities and UN agencies, including UNHCR, are providing medical treatment, food and non-food items.

Those fleeing DRC talk of attacks that left homes burned and people killed. Some feared an escalation in the conflict.

In DRC, a recent humanitarian assessment mission to Yumbi found more than 450 houses destroyed following the clashes and found people in dire need of basic assistance including food, health services and shelter.

Inside Congo-Brazzaville, refugees are settled in the remote localities of Makotipoko, Bouemba, Mopongo and Mpouya in the Department of Plateaux, among local communities.

Authorities in the Republic of the Congo formally requested the assistance of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations. We are coordinating relief efforts to support the government in assisting refugees.

UNHCR and the World Food Programme have already deployed teams in the area, distributing relief items including food, tarpaulin and other basic items since 29 December. Food distributions began on 1 January 2019 in Bouemba and will expand to other locations over the coming days.

However, refugees continue to live in difficult conditions. They are hosted in remote areas where communities already struggle to access water, food and healthcare. Humanitarian organizations also face logistical challenges, with some localities only accessible by the river. The rainy season and floods in the area have left new arrivals exposed to malaria and water diseases. 

The Republic of the Congo currently hosts some 60,000 refugees, mainly from the Central African Republic, DRC and Rwanda.

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