The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today completed the first phase of an emergency airlift of relief supplies to more than 25,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) located in the north-western town of Zongo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Speaking to the press in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said nearly 20 tonnes of plastic sheeting, blankets, mats, jerry cans and kitchen sets flown late last week from the DRC capital of Kinshasa to the town of Gemena, some 280 kilometres south-east of Zongo, had been ferried by helicopter to Zongo by 29 July. The deliveries were made by MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.
"The aid will be distributed to approximately 1,000 families who are encamped in schools, churches and other public buildings in the Zongo area," the spokesman said. "Others are living with Congolese families in the area."
The agency is now searching for more efficient means to send an additional 60 tonnes of aid from the DRC capital, Kinshasa.
Zongo - located across the Oubangui river border from the CAR capital, Bangui - currently hosts an estimated 15,000 refugees, with some 7,000 more scattered across 20 villages along the DRC side of the river. Another group of 3,000 to 4,000 refugees is gathered in the town of Libenge, some 100 kilometres south of Zongo.
Many of the refugees first arrived in north-west DRC in early June in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in CAR, UNHCR said.