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The Congos: UNHCR launches relief operation along border

Briefing notes

The Congos: UNHCR launches relief operation along border

4 July 2000

UNHCR has launched a relief operation along the remote and highly dangerous frontier between the two Congos after renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo drove up to 10,000 refugees into the other Congo's Liranga and Ndjoundou areas.

UNHCR staff worked by the light of hurricane lamps until Monday morning to distribute relief supplies to 5,000 refugees in Njoundou, at the confluence of the Congo and Ubangui rivers, about 500 km north of Brazzaville.

The team made two trips upstream by motorised canoe to Njoundu from Loukolela, site of the nearest airstrip. The 12-hour boat journey up the Oubangi is extremely dangerous because fighting continues on the DRC shore and traffic is often intercepted or blocked by troops.

UNHCR is airlifting additional supplies from Kinshasa to Loukolela today. Another aid delivery will be carried out this Thursday in the town of Liranga, where 1,400 Congolese new arrivals have sought shelter.

The recent arrivals include the first refugees from Mbandaka, a major concern to UNHCR because the town is much larger than other population areas so far affected by the forced displacement.

A total of 900 plastic sheets, 150 hoes, 365 machetes, 300 jerry cans, 133kg of soap and 44 fishing nets have been distributed so far to the refugees, who rely largely on fishing and some manioc for food. A total of 336 Congolese were treated, mostly for diarrhoea, by medical staff from the NGO, IRC, and by nurses from among the refugees. Several cases of malnutrition were also observed among children under 5.

The number of refugees in the Republic of Congo is now estimated at 30-40,000, including Congolese who moved out of the DRC during the past year to escape battles between rebels and government forces farther north in Equateur province.