“I’m tired of sharing every bit of space. I want to have my own place, a place to call home” says Cedrik Ngandu, a 17-year-old Congolese refugee who arrived in Angola four months ago.
After months spent in over-crowded centres in northern Angola, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) eagerly await their relocation to Lóvua, a new site allocated by the Government of Angola to host refugees in Lunda Norte province. In Lóvua each refugee family will have a plot of land about 25 m x 25 m where they will be able to build their own shelter, latrine, and shower and cultivate their crops.
Lóvua will have a total of some 81 villages composed of 70 plots each of which will host 360 inhabitants.
On Tuesday, August 8, the UN Refugee Agency and humanitarian partners began the relocation of over 33,000 Congolese refugees from temporary reception centres in Dundo to Lóvua settlement some 100 km away. Approximately 1,500 refugees have so far been transferred from Mussungue reception centre to Lóvua.
Some 200 members of the refugee and host community helped UNHCR, partner organizations, and governmental authorities to prepare for the arrival of the new residents. They built shelters, latrines, showers, water points, distribution centres and communal infrastructure to ensure refugees access to basic facilities and services.
Since March, thousands of Congolese have fled generalized violence and conflict in the Kasai region of the DRC, to seek safety in Angola. The Angolan authorities were quickly able to establish reception centres to temporarily accommodate this population.
The relocation is welcomed by the refugee community, as Ntumba Marie, one of the first people to be relocated with her family, explains. A mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai-Oriental province, Ntumba highlights the new opportunities that await her family in Lóvua. “The relocation is the first step to show that change is possible,” she says. After violence and ethnic tensions spread across the Kasai region, the family knew they have to flee. “When the conflict started, we lost everything,” she says. The new site in Lóvua will bring peace and stability for people who have lived with insecurity since the violence began. “I will soon have my own plot of land and higher hopes to achieve my dreams,” she explains happily.
Standing next to Ntumba, is Cedrik Ngandu. He came to Angola nearly four months ago after being separated from his family in DRC. “The relocation will allow me to have better-living conditions; to have my own space and place to call home,” he explains. Refugees who are relocated to Lóvua will be given a plot of land from the Angolan government measuring 25×25 meters and allocated with a unique address linked to their registration. The tracking of plot allocation gives UNHCR and partners in the field the opportunity to follow-up on persons with specific needs to set up tailored protection assistance for each.
While the relocations will provide Cedrik with the opportunity to start a new life, free from violence, he looks forward to going back to school and also livelihood opportunities in the future. “This is the first step in my new life. Of course, my priority is to finish my studies,” he says.
The host community in Lóvua eagerly awaits the arrival of new neighbors. “We look forward to receiving our brothers and sisters!” António an Angolan from Lóvua explains. The community sees this movement as an opening to boost business and revive the economy in Lóvua.
The new site will provide that first step to a more dignified life for the 33,000 refugees that have arrived in Dundo. “I am very happy to go to Lóvua…but we will never forget where we come from. We are Congolese. I cannot let my child forget where we are from,” explains Mwema Sara, a 19-year old single mother who is among the first group of refugees to be relocated from Mussungue. As a young mother forced to flee, Mwema Sara is spirited and eager to move out of the overcrowded transit centre to a more quiet and private location. While in Lóvua Sara will be farther from her home in the DRC, the safety of her young daughter is her main priority – something that cannot be guaranteed in her home in Kasai. “It calms me down knowing that I have so many people taking care of us,” she says. As the support UNHCR and partners have provided refugees in Dundo will continue in Lóvua, Sara will finally have the opportunity to start anew.
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