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DR Congo: UN refugee agency helps hundreds of displaced return to Ituri

DR Congo: UN refugee agency helps hundreds of displaced return to Ituri

Displaced in Beni heading back to Ituri
The United Nations refugee agency has this week begun an operation to return hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to their homes in the troubled north-eastern province of Ituri by the end of the year.

On Monday a convoy organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) took about 210 Congolese from Beni in North Kivu province, which has become extremely volatile this year, along bush tracks to the town of Komanda, which is located in Ituri.

A second convoy, this time carrying 216 returnees, left Beni early today bound for Ituri province, according to a press report issued by UNHCR.

Two convoys each week are planned over the next month so that eventually an estimated 2,400 Congolese should be able to return to Ituri, with further returns dependent on demand.

Returnees are given a series of items by UNHCR to help them re-adjust to life in their former homes, including jerry cans, blankets, mats, plastic sheets, kitchen sets, seeds and agricultural tools. The World Food Programme (WFP) is also supplying food rations for a month.

Some 40,000 people from Ituri have been living in camps or with host families in the area around Beni since 2003 after inter-ethnic clashes erupted across their home province. But security conditions in Ituri have improved recently and UNHCR said thousands of IDPs have returned home spontaneously.

UNHCR field officer Sani Chaibou added that UN forces would conduct patrols in the return zones in Ituri to ensure the safety of the IDPs.