UN food relief agency helping Congolese refugees fleeing to Burundi, Rwanda

UN food relief agency helping Congolese refugees fleeing to Burundi, Rwanda

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started feeding some of the thousands of refugees who have fled the recent wave of violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and sought haven in Burundi and Rwanda.

WFP, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the aid agency CARE distributed more than 25 tons of food rations to about 5,000 refugees living in three communes inside northern Burundi, according to a WFP statement released yesterday.

As the number of refugees continues to increase, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Burundi, Foday Turay, said the agency is closely monitoring the influx to make sure it can help as many people as possible.

On Tuesday, UNHCR said it estimated at least 17,000 refugees have entered Burundi alone in the last month following an upsurge in violence in the DRC. Many are living in transit camps.

Ethnic Bafulero and Babembe have been running out of DRC, mainly empty-handed, because of a fear of attacks by militias comprising Banyamulenge, or Congolese Tutsi, fighters or because they have been trying to avoid the fighting between the Banyamulenge and Government forces.

WFP staff yesterday sent a convoy with 90 tons of food from Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, to the towns of Cibitoke and Rugombo in the northwest of the country.

In Rwanda, WFP has supplied nearly 20 tons of food to about 2,300 Congolese refugees who fled violence in the DRC city of Bukavu last month. Another round of food distribution will take place this week.

WFP officials said they are also relocating staff back to Bukavu, where fighting seems to have dissipated, to help civilians in the city.