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UN Seeks Durable Solutions for DRC Displacement Crisis

FILE - Internally displaced Congolese men and women wait for World Food Program energy biscuits to be distributed in Kibati, north of Goma, eastern DRC, Aug. 8, 2012.

The United Nations reports that efforts are under way to bring an end to the long-standing displacement crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

DRC remains the longest and most protracted humanitarian crisis on the African continent, with ongoing conflict in North and South Kivu, Ituri Province and north Katanga.

Instability in neighboring countries has forced thousands of people to seek refuge in DRC. The U.N. refugee agency reports there were more than 2.5 million internally displaced people and more than 100,000 refugees in DRC at the end of last year.

It is beyond time to bring the crisis to a close, said Mamadou Diallo, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in DRC.

"We have now started the conversation with the government of Congo to discuss the issue of durable solutions to the issue of displacement as a way of ensuring — where feasible — the dignified and safe return of displaced people into their areas of origin,” he said, “or else ... looking for other durable solutions through settlement or resettlement of some of these displaced people into the host communities as a way of ending this long-term displacement."

FILE - Displaced people from the town of Sake gather at the Mugunga camp on the road to Goma, DRC, Nov. 23, 2012. (G. Joselow.VOA)
FILE - Displaced people from the town of Sake gather at the Mugunga camp on the road to Goma, DRC, Nov. 23, 2012. (G. Joselow.VOA)

The United Nations has launched a $690 million appeal to assist 7 million people in DRC, of whom more than half are going hungry. Priorities include health care, water and sanitation, aid for millions of victims of rape and sexual violence, and assistance for the displaced.

Diallo, however, said peace can bring huge economic potential to the country — in particular, eastern Congo.

North and South Kivu, the breadbasket of the Congo, have the potential to feed the entire nation and export crops to neighboring countries, he told VOA.

"But, because of the insecurity, people in the displacement, some of the people no longer have the possibility of going to their fields, attending to their crops and doing other things,” Diallo said. “So, they remain in the camps and rely on handouts."

The situation can be reversed with political will from the government and the necessary resources to help the millions of displaced leave their lives of dependency and resume a normal life, he said.