The United Nations and its partners today launched an appeal for just under $60 million to help more than 100,000 refugees from the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who have fled ethnic violence and are seeking refuge in neighbouring Republic of Congo (ROC).
The funds will help some 110,000 refugees, the vast majority of whom are women and children, as well as 58,000 people in the Republic of Congo’s host areas for a six-month period.
Clashes broke out last October when Enyele militiamen launched deadly assaults on ethnic Munzayas over fishing and farming rights in the Dongo area of Equateur province.
The tensions have enveloped most of Equateur, sending some 114,000 to the Republic of Congo, driving some 60,000 to other parts of the province, and forcing an additional 17,000 people to seek refuge in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The Government and people of the ROC have once again responded generously to refugees escaping fighting in the DRC, said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.
“But they have very limited resources and a small population, over half of whom subsist on $1.25 per day,” he pointed out. “Significant support is therefore required from the international community.”
The refugees are scattered across more than 100 sites – living with host families, sheltering in abandoned huts or building makeshift settlements – along a 500-kilometre stretch of the Oubangui River between Liranga district and the ROC’s border with the CAR. In most areas, they vastly outnumber the local population buy a ratio of five to one.
Low river levels are also compounding difficulties, resulting in relief supplies having to be ferried or flown in.
The Government, UN agencies and other groups carried out two assessment missions last November, which found that food, livelihood support, clean water, health care and education as among the top needs.
Social services, if they existed in areas where refugees are now living, are completely overwhelmed, and the influx of refugees is also heavily straining local resources, such as water, wood and fish.
In December, the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) – which aims to speed up relief operations for humanitarian emergencies and make funds available quickly after a disaster, when people are most at risk – allocated nearly $8 million to the crisis, with bilateral funding also having been put forward.
This leaves the unmet portion of the appeal launched today at $41 million.
Of the $59 million appealed for today, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling for $20 million to help to increase overall protection and boost logistical capacity. The funds will also be put towards providing primary education for more than 20,000 children and shelter, as well as the provision of clean water.
“Our concern is that four months into exile, the refuges are still lacking basic humanitarian aid, despite our efforts,” agency spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva. “So far, we’ve been able to cover just 30 per cent of the needs of this huge population for food, sanitation, shelter, health care and primary education.”
UN entities also taking part in today’s appeal are the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).