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Congolese Displaced Increase, as Rebel Attacks Continue

In the eastern DRC, continuing Hutu rebel attacks against towns and villages are causing more people to seek the safety of UN-run camps. As a result, some of the camps near Goma, known as Mugunga One and Two, are becoming very crowded.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is moving some of IDPs (internally displaced persons) west of the town to a newer and much larger camp, Mugunga Three. UNHCR spokesman David Nthengwe spoke from Goma about the relocation.

"UNHCR has started transferring some 1,000 internally displaced people who arrived in Goma…in the last two months. What has happened is that these people…are fleeing from the continuing FDLR attacks against civilians in North Kivu (Province). And so the only place where they find safety is in the camps in Goma. And so we have received quite a number of them. And we continue to receive them in slow but steady numbers," he says.

Mugunga One is located on the outskirts to the entrance to Goma and directly in the path of those fleeing the fighting. Mugunga One and Two were built in 2006 and 2007 respectively. While each is capable of accommodating 20,000 people, UNHCR says the camps have limited relief facilities. The Mugunga Three camp opened last December as a back-up site and is capable of accommodating up to 60,000 people. Currently, there are only about 5,000 people there.

"We have moved them to Mugunga Three because Mugunga One is congested. There reception centers there are full. The sheds that we usually put them in for their transition before they can get a plot to erect their shelter…are full. So, UNHCR and its partners have decided to transfer these displaced people to a larger space at Mugunga Three," he says.

There are about 1.8 million people displaced in North Kivu. About 75 percent of those people are believed living with host families. The remaining are in UNHCR camps in Goma and North Kivu.

"Those who are in camps are able to receive assistance directly. But those who are hosted by a family, it's very difficult to locate everybody," says Nthengwe.

UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have had great difficulty in reaching the displaced in remote areas because of danger, such as attacks by various armed groups. Asked whether the security situation has improved at all, Nthengwe says, "It is a very difficult question as of now.… We are not the experts of security issues. Our knowledge and analysis of the security situation is limited to the fact that when we still have IDPs in camps, when we still receive new IDPs coming in the camps, when people are not able to return…signifies the security situation has not improved."