Thousands flee Central African violence into remote region of northern DRC
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed at new displacement in the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 7,000 Central African Republic refugees have arrived in under a week into a situation of little help and desperate need.
The refugees, most of them women and children, are concentrated in the remote village of Kanzawi in DRC’s northern Bas-Uele Province. They fled violence in south-eastern Central African Republic.
The speed of arrivals and the very limited humanitarian presence in the area mean that people urgently need increased support.
Critically, UNHCR’s own capacity for an emergency response is severely stretched, with our DRC operation funded at US$1.6 for every US$10 needed.
The refugees have reported fleeing fighting between two Anti-Balaka groups in the area of Kouango, just across the border. It is the latest in a series of refugee movements into northern DRC. In less than a year, the number of CAR refugees in DRC has grown from around 102,000 to more than 182,000, not including the latest arrivals.
UNHCR is particularly worried about the situation of elderly people, pregnant women and others with specific needs. There is only one water source in Kanzawi village, forcing people to drink from the river. Most of the refugees are sleeping in the open, others in public buildings.
One of our partners is providing medical support to the new arrivals, and we are assessing possibilities for further support, should the group not be able to return soon. We have improved vital community infrastructure in some of the villages and towns that have taken in a large number of refugees, including the drilling of wells, supporting local schools and health centres and providing shelter to some extremely vulnerable CAR refugees, while ensuring refugees receive documents and are registered.
UNHCR commends the Democratic Republic of the Congo for keeping its borders open to refugees. We are appealing for urgent support to the communities hosting refugees and the refugees themselves, to ensure basic needs including water, shelter and healthcare can be met in villages near the border. Many of these villages now house more refugees than local Congolese people.
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