The UN refugee agency reports thousands of Congolese refugees have fled
to Uganda and Rwanda in the past few days seeking safety from
escalating fighting in North Kivu province. Rebel forces loyal to
renegade leader Laurent Nkundu have made serious inroads into
territory previously held by the Congolese army of President Joseph
Kabila around the eastern town of Goma. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA
from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
The UN refugee agency reports
more than 8,500 Congolese refugees have crossed the
border into Uganda since the latest round of fighting started in
August - some 2,500 of them over the past few days.
spokesman, Ron Redmond, says many of the refugees said they had walked
for more than 20 hours from the Rugarama area in Congo. This is about
17 kilometers from the Uganda border.
He says most of the
Congolese refugees in Uganda are dispersed in a dozen villages along
the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
accommodated by host families, friends and relatives," said Redmond.
"They are in fairly good condition. But, we fear that the situation
could soon deteriorate if medical, water and sanitation facilities are
unable to cope with rapidly increasing needs. Logistics are
difficult. It is a very remote area. In addition, the food supplies
in that part of Uganda generally depend on local imports from DRC."
Redmond says some 1,200 other Congolese refugees, who fled to Rwanda
earlier in the week, were staying in a school in Gisenyi. He says they
did not want to be registered by UNHCR and transported to the transit
He says many of the refugees have since returned to
Goma to check on their properties and families left behind. Many
others, he says, have moved in with relatives in Gisenyi or crossed the
border to Uganda.
Redmond says the UNHCR is going to have to set up new sites to accommodate the growing number of refugees and displaced people.
is clear we are going to require more resources, more funding to cope
with the new needs," he said. "Working with the UN system and our
partners in the UN as well as NGO partners, we are going to need to
rapidly distribute tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans,
buckets, mosquito nets. All of the aid items that are absolutely
essential in a situation like this where people have fled with
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio
Guterres, is renewing his appeal to all sides in the conflict to respect
humanitarian principles and to ensure the safety of civilians and those
trying to help them.
He says hundreds of thousands of people who have already suffered far too much are in danger and in desperate need of help.
UNHCR reports more than a quarter of a million people have fled their
homes since August. Altogether, it estimates there are more than one
million internally displaced people in North Kivu.