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UNHCR appeals for funds for Great Lakes operations

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UNHCR appeals for funds for Great Lakes operations

2 March 1998

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said today it is seeking $159 million to help hundreds of thousands of refugees in five countries in the African Great Lakes.

The funding will cover operations in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo which between them are currently sheltering 400,000 refugees. Tanzania is the largest host country with 260,000 Burundi and 70,000 Congolese exiles.

In the last two years, more than 1.5 million refugees in the region have already returned home, including 1.3 million Rwandans and 175,000 Burundis.

A major component of the Central African operation is the protection and screening of Rwandan refugees in surrounding countries and monitoring the safety and well being of refugees once they get home.

The new funding will finance UNHCR's ongoing programmes both to repatriate and then reintegrate the refugees and will include projects to rehabilitate health centres, schools, water projects, forestry and crop and livestock production.

During her recent trip to the region, High Commissioner Sadako Ogata specifically promised continued help for refugees from Congo-Brazzaville who fled to neighbouring Kinshasa during a five-month civil war last year. UNHCR has already repatriated 15,000 out of a total of 30,000 Brazzaville refugees, providing them with blankets, sheeting and cooking utensils.

The High Commissioner also emphasized the role of women in rebuilding shattered communities, and UNHCR has earmarked $4.4 million to help protect Rwandan women and promote income-generating projects for them. Several thousand of these women are heads of households after husbands and fathers were killed or disappeared during the Great Lakes crisis.

More than 50,000 Congolese refugees who fled the 1996-97 conflict in that country have registered to return by boat across Lake Tanganyika from Tanzania, and UNHCR is repairing ruined docks and roads to facilitate their homecoming. Already, 20,000 people have returned to remote villages in this same area of South Kivu.

A major ongoing programme in Rwanda is the provision of 120,000 housing units by the end of the year in areas particularly hard-hit by the recent conflict. The $14 million earmarked for shelters in Rwanda represents two-thirds of UNHCR's budget for housing in the region.

UNHCR's funding requirements are part of a consolidated inter-agency appeal for $550 million announced Friday by the Office of the Co-ordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in New York.

Though UNHCR's programmes are vital to help complete the return of peoples uprooted by the Great Lakes crisis, High Commissioner Ogata has already expressed her fears about being able to raise sufficient funds, especially for projects in Rwanda.

UNHCR's financial needs in the Great Lakes this year include $28 million for logistics; $11 million for the health sector; $8 million for water projects; $6 million for forestry, crop production and livestock; $12 million for education; $3.4 million for income generation projects; $5 million for domestic needs and programme delivery $30 million.