News / Africa

Northern Republic of Congo Faces Refugee Crisis

Refugee children from the Democratic Republic of Congo attend class in a forest near the town of Gangania, more than 850 km north of Brazzaville, the capital of neighboring Congo. Most of the teachers are also refugees who fled inter-ethnic violence in th
Refugee children from the Democratic Republic of Congo attend class in a forest near the town of Gangania, more than 850 km north of Brazzaville, the capital of neighboring Congo. Most of the teachers are also refugees who fled inter-ethnic violence in th

Multimedia

Audio

A letup in fighting around the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northwestern Equateur province has let U.N. relief officials regain access to 35,000 destitute refugees. The displaced civilians are part of a wider group of 114,000 victims who have crossed the Oubangui River since October to escape ethnic clashes between Congolese militias in an expansive fishing and farming dispute that forced authorities to call in the army.

Rescuers had to fly supplies to the neighboring Republic of Congo (ROC), 700 kilometers north of its capital, Brazzaville, and transport the goods by barge along the river to more than 100 makeshift aid stations.  UNHCR communications officer Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba says the exodus has posed a logistically challenging rescue effort that planners estimate could cost about $59,000,000.

The Oubangui River forms the Republic of Congo's northeastern border with the DRC, eventually emptying into the Congo River as it winds its way down to the ROC capital, Brazzaville.
The Oubangui River forms the Republic of Congo's northeastern border with the DRC, eventually emptying into the Congo River as it winds its way down to the ROC capital, Brazzaville.

“We have received some funding, about $17,000,000, but we do need more to cater to the needs of all the refugees.  They are so widely dispersed that it is a very expensive logistical operation,” she pointed out.

For refugees camped out along the Oubangui between the Congo Republic’s regional capital of Impfondo and the town of Liranga, the past five weeks of renewed shooting and fighting between the army and ethnic militias prevented humanitarian workers from reaching uprooted civilians.

Deadly militia assaults on the DRC town of Mbandaka in early April also accelerated the arrival of victims in the Congo Republic, seeking food, shelter, water, education, and health care, which could not be delivered until the shooting stopped.

“Fortunately, we were able to reach the refugees after security restrictions were lifted for U.N. staff to travel on the southern axis of the Oubangui River, where the Congolese military operation was ongoing.  So, it was where the DR Congolese army operations tried to stop the militiamen, whose deadly assaults prompted all this huge refugee flow,” said Lejeune-Kaba.

She added that, with almost a doubling of its population in the past six months, the northern Republic of Congo is facing a crisis of enormous proportions, and the challenges of delivering aid to those in need differ widely from more conventional rescue efforts.

“Every single one of the refugee sites can only be reached by the river, so we have to hop from one site to another.  Some of them are very close by.  But, there are about 100 sites on 600 kilometers.  It’s like a site every six kilometers, and every one of our efforts is multiplied by the number of sites.  If we’re going to distribute food, it’s going to be distributed in 100 sites.  If you’re going to distribute, say, mosquito nets, you’re going to do it in 100 different locations,” she explained.

Northern Republic of Congo Faces Refugee Crisis
Northern Republic of Congo Faces Refugee Crisis

Although the displaced remain reluctant to return home so soon after an uneasy calm has settled on northwestern Equateur, the UNHCR spokeswoman says the agency will continue to fulfill its mission of standing by the victims as long as its international mandate permits the agency to assist the refugees, either by supplying emergency relief or by facilitating their return to their former homes.

“So far, we continue to engage with donors, and there are a lot of donor missions.  And, they seem to be showing support for our operations.  And, we just hope that will continue, especially when we enter the period of the year where navigating along the Oubangui River is a lot easier, which means we can reach a lot more people,” she explained.

By last week, UNHCR staff had succeeded in registering about 70,000 of the DRC population residing in neighboring Republic of Congo.  It’s estimated that an additional 30,000 Congolese are remaining inside Equateur province as internally uprooted civilians.  UNHCR is also planning to reinforce its presence in the DRC to care for their needs.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid