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DRC: airlift to Central Africans begins

Briefing notes

DRC: airlift to Central Africans begins

27 July 2001

UNHCR has begun the delivery of urgently-needed relief items to the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) town of Zongo, where there are tens of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic. A UNHCR-chartered Caravan aircraft yesterday made several sorties from the town of Gemena, some 280 km south-east of Zongo, delivering several tons of plastic sheeting, blankets, mats and jerry-cans.

Many of the refugees first arrived in the DRC, Equateur Province in early June in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in the Central African Republic.

A C-130 aircraft from MONUC, the UN peace-keeping mission in the DRC, this morning left the capital, Kinshasa, for Gemena with an additional 17 tons of relief items. The items will be ferried to Zongo by helicopter, as the runway in Zongo is too short for C-130 aircraft.

Meanwhile, a UNHCR emergency team which arrived in the Zongo area last week is making arrangements with NGOs for distribution of the supplies. Among the NGOs already in the area are Médecins Sans Frontières, and the Italian organisation, Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI). There are also local groups such as the DRC Red Cross and church missions. Some 15,000 refugees in the town of Zongo are occupying schools, churches and other public buildings. Local authorities have asked UNHCR to relocate the refugees to other sites.

Zongo is about a kilometre across the river border from the CAR capital, Bangui. Up to 7,000 refugees also remain scattered across 20 villages along the DRC side of the Oubangui River, while another group of 3,000 to 4,000 refugees are gathered in the town of Libenge, halfway between Betou and Zongo.