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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Great Lakes Operation


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Great Lakes Operation

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Care for refugees in camps through multi-sectoral programmes; provide protection for asylum-seekers and refugees; determine refugee status of individuals; repatriate, reintegrate, and monitor returnees; address environmental concerns and special needs, including those of women and children; and provide institutional support in these areas to host Governments.

NB: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UNHCR's activities in north and south Kivu as well as in the Province Orientale have been suspended following the occupation of these provinces by rebel forces and a temporary evacuation of UNHCR offices. UNHCR staff are now returning to the capital after an emergency evacuation. Wherever possible, activities similar to those listed above will also be conducted in the DRC.

Who we help

In the United Republic of Tanzania: some 260,000 Burundi and 40,000 Congolese refugees (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) living in camps.

In Burundi: approximately 50,000 Burundi refugees who are expected to return in 1999, and some 50,000 internally displaced persons; some 600 Rwandan and some 5,000 Congolese refugees who arrived recently. UNHCR also strengthens basic services in the areas to which refugees and internally displaced persons return.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo: those Congolese who have returned from countries of asylum, some 500 Burundi refugees in Mbuji-Mayi, 11,000 in Uvira (if UNHCR has access to them), and 3,000 refugees of various other nationalities in the DRC.

In the Republic of the Congo: approximately 11,000 Rwandan refugees.

In Uganda: approximately 7,000 Rwandan and 1,200 refugees from the DRC.

In Zambia: some 1,700 Rwandan refugees and 12,200 refugees from the DRC.

In the Sudan: some 3,600 refugees from DRC.

In Kenya: some 300 Rwandan refugees (out of a total of some 7,700, most of whom live with families in urban environments).

Our requirements

US$ 75,219,400

Our offices

The United Republic of Tanzania: Dar es Salaam, Kigoma, Ngara, Kibondo, Kasulu, Mwanza.

Burundi: Bujumbura, Gitega, Ruyigi, Muyinga.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Bukavu, Uvira, Aru, Aba, Dungu, Kisenge, Mbandaka, Mbuji-Mayi.

(Note: as of October, 1998 all offices remain temporarily evacuated, except for the Regional Office in Kinshasa).

The Republic of the Congo: Brazzaville, Loukolela .

Our partners

Burundi: Ministère de la Réinsertion et de la Réinstallation des Déplacés et des Rapatriés, Oxfam-Québec, Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Concern Worldwide, International Rescue Committee (IRC), International Medical Corps (IMC).

The Republic of the Congo: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Rescue Committee (IRC), ATLAS.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo: International Rescue Committee (IRC), Dioceses of Mahagi, Boga and Dungu, World Vision International (WVI) International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), The Congolese Red Cross, Human Dignity in the World, The Catholic Coordination of Boma, The Baptist Community of Fleuve Congo, ATLAS, COOPI, Save the Children Fund-UK.

The United Republic of Tanzania: Africare, Caritas, Concern, CARE, Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-Spain), Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service (TCRS), Tanzania Red Cross Society (TRCS), World Vision International (WVI), Oxfam, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA), Dutch Relief Agency (DRA), South African Extension Unit (SAEU), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Regional Administrative Secretary- Kigoma, Christian Outreach (CO), TWESA, Kigoma Diocese, Tanzania-Mozambique Friendship Association.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The outbreak of two successive wars in the DRC (the first of which, during late 1996-early 1997, brought Laurent Kabila to power; the second, which began in August 1998, challenged his authority) has had a significant impact on the humanitarian situation throughout the region. The economic, social and political climate in the DRC is tense and unstable. UNHCR has had very little access to refugees there since the end of 1996. Prior to the latest conflict, there had been hope that the protocol signed by the Government and UNHCR on 28 July 1998 would remove obstacles to UNHCR's activities in the country. But the resumption of hostilities made it even more difficult to reach the refugees. UNHCR was finally obliged to evacuate all its staff from the DRC in mid-August 1998 (two security persons maintain a minimum presence there). Efforts to renew humanitarian assistance during 1999 will largely depend on the political and security situation both inside the country and throughout the region, and, of course, on access to the refugees. Given these uncertainties, UNHCR is compelled to take a flexible approach to planning for next year's programme.

The United Republic of Tanzania

Some 100,000 persons entered the Kigoma region after fleeing the first conflict in the DRC in 1996. While nearly half of them returned to the DRC during the first part of 1998, the second conflict in the DRC reversed this trend. Preparations were thus made for a new influx. As of September 1998, approximately 260,000 Burundi refugees live in camps in Tanzania. Some 40,000 of them arrived in the aftermath of the 1993 hostilities that followed the assassination of the newly elected President M. Ndandaye. Others arrived during 1995-97; and some 40,000 Burundi nationals who had lived independently in Tanzanian villages, many since the 1970s, were rounded-up and relocated in camps in late 1997 and early 1998. The influx from Burundi continued in 1998, although at a lower rate than in the past. Following the massive repatriation of almost all Rwandan refugees from Tanzania in December 1996, the remaining refugees fled into the bush to avoid repatriation. However, since January 1998, UNHCR has been receiving a new influx of asylum-seekers from Rwanda. Some 4,000 are in the Mbuba Transit Centre, and 1,800 in Mkugwa camp in Kibondo. In Lukole camp (Ngara), some 8,000 refugees thought to be Burundian declared that they are Rwandans.


The generally stable and secure conditions prevalent in some of the northern and eastern provinces of Burundi attracted the spontaneous return of 62,000 refugees from Ngara and Kibondo camps in Tanzania during 1997. Smaller numbers of refugees also chose to return from Rwanda. By the end of 1997, UNHCR had received, reintegrated, and assisted some 177,000 persons. The most recent conflict in the DRC precipitated the spontaneous repatriation of some 30,000 Burundi refugees from camps and villages in the Kivu and neighbouring regions of the DRC. Another 10,000 persons repatriated to Burundi from Tanzania in 1998.

Current situation

Because of the volatility of the region, UNHCR has reinforced its contingency planning to be able to react in case new refugee movements occur. Recent developments in the DRC have had dramatic consequences for UNHCR's operational capacity and field presence in that country. The refugee programme in Tanzania has, in the past, benefited from the active interest and involvement of the Government. Refugees there enjoyed access to agricultural land, the possibility of naturalization, and the opportunity to receive government assistance to post-primary education. But recent refugee crises have made the Government and the people less welcoming towards refugees. Since 1994, refugee assistance and protection have been delivered in a politically-charged atmosphere between the countries of origin (Burundi and Rwanda) and the country of asylum (Tanzania). UNHCR provides special assistance and support to the Tanzanian authorities towards maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of the refugee camps.

An attempt by UNHCR to set in motion a tripartite mechanism among the agency and the Tanzanian and Burundi Governments did not meet with much success. Economic sanctions against Burundi by neighbouring countries has inhibited external peace initiatives. Still, an internal peace process, overseen by the Government, is gaining momentum; and reintegration activities conducted by UNHCR are contributing to reconciliation.

Those in need of protection and assistance

The Government estimates there are a total of approximately 22,000 refugees. Because the agency has no access to these people, it has been unable to confirm these numbers. Assistance has been provided to some 600 of the most vulnerable refugees and to new arrivals fleeing the conflict in the DRC. Rwandan refugees who arrived in the Congo in May 1997 are hosted in the camps in the north of the country. The screening operation planned for 1998, but delayed due to the conflict in the DRC, will continue in 1999. The refugee population is largely male. Other groups of refugees (primarily some 500 Burundians) who arrived between 1993 and 1996 are hosted in the Mbuji-Mayi camp, DRC. Congolese refugees are mainly a mix of urban residents and rural farmers of which the single largest ethnic group are Bembe (70 per cent). Most (more than 70 per cent) are women and children. The Burundi refugees originate from the following provinces of Muyinga, Kirundo, Ngozi, Karuzi, Kayanza, as well as Ruyigi and Makamba. The majority of the Burundi refugees are farmers. With the exception of a few hundred Tutsi or ethnically mixed families, they are all of the Hutu ethnic group. Rwandan asylum-seekers/refugees are primarily of Hutu origin, mostly from Kibungo in the east of the country.

The change of power in the DRC prompted the spontaneous departure of pro-Lumbumba DRC refugees residing in Bujumbura since the 1960s. Similarly, because of the positive prospects for the repatriation of old-caseload Tutsi refugees from Rwanda, UNHCR Bujumbura reduced assistance to the most vulnerable of the urban refugee caseload.



UNHCR will promote respect for humanitarian principles and refugee law among Governments of the region by building a consensus that the protection of refugees and solutions to refugee problems coincides with the vital interests of States. UNHCR will continue to try to resolve the problem of the remaining Rwandan refugees in a dozen countries in and near the Great Lakes region and ensure asylum, protection, and welfare for other groups of refugees (primarily Burundians), until durable solutions are found. The Office will support and, when appropriate, promote the voluntary repatriation to the DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda. Measures may include reintegration programmes in areas of return and support for measures to prevent future refugee outflows. To manage the Great Lakes Operation, it is necessary to establish and maintain an effective operational and administrative capacity at Headquarters and in the field.


UNHCR believes it is appropriate to encourage the return of refugees to those areas of Burundi considered safe. If favourable security conditions persist, it is reasonable to anticipate the return of 50,000 refugees in 1999. UNHCR will also provide assistance to 50,000 internally displaced persons living in the same area as returnees. This will be accomplished by implementing Quick Impact Projects to re-establish basic services for both populations.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

UNHCR's plans include: organizing the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan, Barundi, and Congolese refugees and locating and assisting those Rwandan refugees to whom UNHCR has access; helping those refugees who cannot be repatriated to integrate locally (assistance in the form of agricultural materials and income-generating activities will help these refugees assume a greater degree of self-sufficiency); organizing, wherever possible, the resettlement of various refugees; ensuring access to education (primary, secondary, university and professional) for refugee students of various nationalities; rehabilitating community infrastructures used or built for refugees, returnees, and the local populations that host them; and consolidating and re-focusing programmes towards groups with special needs and environmental protection.

The United Republic of Tanzania

Objectives include promoting refugee law and security through law enforcement institutions; assisting refugees in returning to their country of origin through voluntary repatriation or by providing alternative durable solutions for groups and/or individual refugees; and providing basic and complementary food supplies to refugees with special needs.

Other Neighbouring Countries

In other countries hosting refugees from the Great Lakes region, UNHCR provides protection and assistance pending status determination and/or the development of durable solutions. In Uganda, approximately 7,000 Rwandan and 1,200 refugees from the DRC will be assisted in 1999. In Zambia, some 1,700 Rwandan and 12,200 refugees from the DRC will receive assistance pending repatriation. In the Sudan, the planned repatriation of some 3,600 persons from the DRC has been put on hold pending improvement of the security situation in the DRC.

Protection and Solutions

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Regional Office will continue to promote refugee rights among national and local authorities. Seeking solutions for individual cases will remain the Office's main activity. The Office will follow-up on the 1998 accord cadre signed between UNHCR and the Government of the DRC and will encourage the application of tripartite agreements signed in 1998 in Uganda and Burundi.

The United Republic of Tanzania

A repatriation operation to the DRC was established during the second half of 1997 after a Tripartite Agreement on Voluntary Repatriation was signed. As of January 1998, more than 75 per cent of the refugees from the DRC had registered to repatriate; by 31 July of that year, more than 54,000 persons had repatriated to the DRC with UNHCR assistance. Although the operation was interrupted, due to the eruption of civil strife in the DRC in August 1998, it is hoped that the operation can resume in 1999. Some 40,000 refugees from the DRC (who arrived during the 1996-1997 influx) remain in camps in Tanzania.

It is difficult to foresee a rapid repatriation of the Burundian refugees in Tanzania given the seriousness of human rights violations in some provinces and the slow progress of political dialogue in Burundi. In 1998 UNHCR helped repatriate those Burundian refugees who expressed a desire to return to relatively safe and stable provinces, particularly Ruyigi and Muyinga. An average of 2,000 persons return each month (a total of some 10,000 to date). Though the programme will continue throughout 1998, no significant increase in the number of returnees is expected during 1999.

UNHCR assists Rwandan refugees in Tanzania by assisting the Government in speedily determining the status of asylum-seekers, advocating for their protection from refoulement, and settling refugees in camps pending durable solutions.

The Government's recent adoption of a more restrictive asylum policy has resulted in the uprooting and rounding-up of refugees from the villages in north-western Tanzania - most of whom had successfully settled among the population, inter-married, acquired property and businesses, and become self-sufficient. A large number of them have been sent to refugee camps, thus undermining their self-sufficiency by making them dependent on international assistance.


UNHCR conducts workshops on protection for civilian and military authorities and staff, maintains a presence at border crossing points and in transit centres and monitors the reintegration of returnees.

Women and Children

Provided the political and security situation in the DRC allows, UNHCR will set up protection activities for urban refugee women and their children in Kinshasa and provide assistance and income-generating projects for repatriated widows and single mothers in the eastern part of the country. These activities will be reinforced in 1999 with education and professional (technical) training projects. Culturally and ethically sensitive reproductive health education will be offered to the 11,000 Rwandan refugees located in four camps in the Congo.

Assistance will be given to centres housing unaccompanied minors, foster families and teenage groups in the DRC and in the Congo. This child-centred programme will also include psychological counselling for children in difficulty, reproductive health assistance for teenage girls, and the identification of foster families for unaccompanied minors. Security conditions permitting, the Regional Office and the Government of the DRC will launch a programme to search for and identify an unknown number of Rwandan unaccompanied minors who are scattered throughout the DRC and the Congo.

In Tanzania, the involvement of women in food distribution is now firmly established throughout the refugee camps. Efforts to ensure women's participation in other camp activities, such as education, reproductive health and issues of gender violence (including sexual violence), will continue, and, where necessary, be reinforced. Since sexual violence is a serious problem in the camps, concerted efforts are being made by UNHCR, law enforcement authorities, community services, health agencies and the refugee communities to reduce the incidence of violence against women, support the victims and bring offenders to justice.

It is estimated that 40 per cent of the total female population benefit from primary education; however, 75 per cent of all drop-outs are girls. In response to these statistics, UNHCR has launched a programme to increase female enrolment and reduce their drop-out rate in primary education. Only 25 per cent of the total population of women participate in informal education activities.

In Burundi, identifying, tracing, assisting and monitoring unaccompanied minors will continue during 1999.


Reforestation projects in the eastern DRC were interrupted by the latest conflict in the country. Their resumption will depend on the security situation in the DRC. In Tanzania, UNHCR funded environmental rehabilitation projects in the Kagera and Kigoma regions from 1994 to 1998 and will continue to do so through 1999 in cooperation with local authorities and NGOs. However, UNHCR's role in these development activities will be reduced and assumed increasingly by bilateral donors.


Although there is a major effort to provide primary education for the refugees in Tanzania, the protracted character of some refugee situations requires that attention also be given to post-primary education needs. The Government used to vigorously support secondary education, which followed the Tanzanian curriculum. But of late, education is geared less towards local integration than towards repatriation, and the Government has reduced its participation in it. With the scarcity of resources for access to primary education, little remains for secondary education. Only a limited number of urban refugees take advantage of UNHCR scholarships.


The Tanzanian Government has stressed the need for more national NGOs to become involved in UNHCR's refugee operations. All parties also recognize the need for the continued presence of international NGOs that can, in turn, help build the capacities of national NGOs.


In Tanzania, UNHCR coordinates directly with the Refugee Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs. In addition, the office of the Inspector-General has been providing police constables to protect relief operations in the field. Apart from regular consultations between UNHCR's Representative and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the National Coordination Committee, based in Dar Es Salaam, coordinates all refugee operations in Tanzania. The Committee is composed of line Ministries, United Nations Agencies and NGOs. Regular meetings are held at the Central and District level to consult on issues of relevance to the refugee operation in Tanzania. Other interested parties, such as the Prime Minister's Office and the European Union (and ECHO), also work with UNHCR.

UNHCR works with other United Nations agencies, primarily the World Food Programme (WFP), to ensure there is a constant supply of basic food commodities. Food management at Extended Delivery Points is now the responsibility of WFP. UNHCR also works with UNICEF, WHO, and UNFPA.

Under OCHA's overall leadership, an inter-agency working group comprised of OCHA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, OHCHR, UNFPA, and WHO was established in Geneva to consolidate the various country responses to a possible humanitarian crisis in the DRC (including the emergence of large numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees). UNHCR organized a regional working meeting in Nairobi, attended by representatives from all relevant UNHCR Field Offices, OCHA, WFP, and UNICEF, in which an Action Plan for the region was adopted.

Lessons Learned

The Great Lakes region continues to be plagued by ethnic intolerance, political instability and periodic population movements. Strengthening the emergency response capacity requires technical expertise in site planning, road engineering, water, health and nutrition and community services/education. It is also important to maintain an adequate level of pre-positioned food and non-food items. Northwestern Tanzania will probably continue to host refugees, given the instability in the DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi. UNHCR considers it in the long-term interest of both the country of origin and asylum that the principle of establishing refugee camps at a sufficient distance from borders be respected in all future decisions on camp placement.


Given the extremely challenging security and logistics situation, and reduced funding for UNHCR's 1998 programmes, the agency has largely succeeded in providing adequate levels of assistance to refugees and returnees in camps, settlements, and returnee areas throughout the region. In Burundi, the impact of the programme has reached beyond the specific needs of returnees; it has also contributed to the reconciliation process. In Tanzania, UNHCR expanded its assistance to include education, essential health care, and community services. Some 55,000 refugee children attend school in all camps; clothing has been distributed to children and women; each person receives more than 15 litres of water per day; more than 148,000 mosquito nets were distributed among refugee families to reduce mortality rates due to malaria; and malnutrition rates in all camps are low. Despite limited planning information, a volatile security situation, and a challenging political environment in the DRC, more than 500 Expanded Humanitarian Programme (EHP) projects were launched by more than 50 local NGOs, 10 international NGOs, public institutions, and private contractors. The EHPs covered virtually all sectors, including water, sanitation, infrastructure, health, education, fisheries, animal husbandry, agriculture and forestry. Through the Programme, UNHCR: rehabilitated two major urban roads and more than 150 km of rural roads; repaired more than 40 bridges; reconstructed and cleaned drainage systems; constructed 39 sustainable gravity-fed village water sources in areas surrounding refugee settlements; rehabilitated 18 health centres, including construction of an operating theatre in Bukavu and significant work on Uvira and Goma general hospitals; supplied surgical and laboratory equipment; and rehabilitated 55 schools and supplied school desks for 5,000 students.

Budget US$

The budget includes costs in countries in the Great Lakes region and at Headquarters.

ActivitiesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/household support2,626,324
Water supply850,327
Shelter/other infrastructures3,327,144
Community Services1,869,009
Crop Production970,292
Livestock/animal husbandry7,541
Legal Assistance/Protection2,018,528
Agency Operational Support12,007,947
Programme Delivery Costs*22,840,084
Administrative Support costs8,010,837

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.