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High Commissioner visits Democratic Republic of the Congo

Briefing notes

High Commissioner visits Democratic Republic of the Congo

14 December 2007

High Commissioner António Guterres arrived yesterday evening in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the start of a five-day mission. Today, Friday, he is expected to fly to Goma, in the conflict-torn eastern North Kivu province.

During his mission Guterres will assess our operations to help tens of thousands of displaced Congolese forced from their homes by the latest escalation in fighting between rebels, renegade troops and government forces in North Kivu.

Before leaving Geneva Guterres said he is deeply concerned by the suffering of the Congolese in North Kivu and the terrible humanitarian situation they are facing, made even worse by this fresh round of fighting.

In Goma, Guterres plans to visit areas where displaced people are sheltering, including camps and makeshift sites which are now reaching full capacity and will struggle to cope with fresh arrivals. Guterres will also meet with local authorities, the UN peacekeeping force, UN agencies and humanitarian partner organisations in Goma.

Over the last year, the ongoing conflict, military build-up and general insecurity in North Kivu has resulted in a massive population displacement of some 400,000 people - the worst displacement crisis since the end of the civil war in 2003. Some 170,000 people have been displaced since August alone. In total, there are now an estimated 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

We deployed an emergency team to the area in August to boost our response to the crisis.

The High Commissioner also wants to be with our staff who are working in Goma under great pressure and security constraints to provide those displaced with the assistance and protection they need.

During his stay in the DRC, Guterres is also scheduled to meet with President Joseph Kabila, senior government and UN officials, representatives of donor governments and UNHCR staff before returning to Geneva next Monday.