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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid