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UNHCR seeks funds for refugees in Great Lakes region

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UNHCR seeks funds for refugees in Great Lakes region

19 March 1997

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced today it is seeking $115 million for its programmes this year in the Great Lakes region, focusing on the return of tens of thousands of refugees in eastern Zaire and rehabilitation of areas that once hosted them.

UNHCR's needs are outlined in a United Nations consolidated inter-agency appeal for $324 million issued today by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs for 1997 operations in the Great Lakes.

The region has about 783,000 refugees, including 385,000 Rwandans, 305,000 Burundi and 92,000 Zairians.

UNHCR's attention is centered in eastern Zaire, where refugees need international protection and assistance in repatriating to Rwanda. Efforts are being made to track down large numbers of refugees who have moved from one makeshift camp to another as fighting escalated. Tens of thousands of them have also vanished in the equatorial rain forest.

Collection points have been set up where refugees gather and are assisted to repatriate.

Accessible refugee groups are given basic emergency aid: high energy biscuits, water, shelter, medical and sanitation facilities. Because of logistical difficulties in reaching the forested interior of Zaire, the cost of bringing aid to the refugees is 10 times higher than it was before civil war broke out in the country in October.

UNHCR's 1996 budget for the Great Lakes region, before the massive returns of about 1.3 million Rwandan refugees late in the year from Zaire and Tanzania, was $253 million.

In the countries that previously accommodated the refugees, UNHCR is providing limited aid for the rehabilitation of water, health and agricultural sectors.

The situation in Burundi does not permit UNHCR now to promote or even facilitate repatriation as a durable solution. UNHCR however helps Burundi refugees who return spontaneously. UNHCR, in cooperation with the Burundi government, will continue to support all efforts toward establishing conditions conducive to the return of the Burundi refugees from Tanzania and Zaire.

UNHCR's financial needs in the Great Lakes this year include $15.6 million for logistics and transport; $2.6 million for food; $5 million for domestic relief items; $4.3 million for water supply; $1.2 million for sanitation; $5.6 million for health and nutrition; $6.2 million for shelter; $3.2 million for community services; $2.5 million for education; $3.6 million for crop production; $4.5 million for livestock and veterinary services; $16.4 million for forestry; $2.5 million for income generation and programme delivery $23.6 million.