KINSHASA – Two United Nations agencies are stepping up efforts to assist refugees from the Central Africa Republic (CAR) who have fled into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The UN agency for refugees, UNHCR, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) have come together to assist the large numbers of people who have fled fighting between Seleka rebels and the CAR army since mid-December.
“A large number of newly arrived refugees are women and malnourished children,” says WFP Country Director in the DRC, Martin Ohlsen. There are also significant numbers of unaccompanied children. “They lack basic food supplies and other items and don’t have any means to earn a living. And they are coming into communities which themselves have limited resources.”
Refugees from CAR continue to flee conflict and insecurity in their country, which lies to the north of the DRC. So far, an estimated 22,000 people have sought refuge in the DRC’s Equateur Province and another 2,000 in Orientale Province.
The refugees, who are currently staying with host families in Gbadolite and Mobayi-Mbongo, are due to be resettled in a camp.
“The government has given us a piece of land to set up a refugee camp,” says UNHCR Regional Representative in the DRC, Stefano Severe. “We welcome this decision because the refugees are facing major protection issues and the number of new refugees is far beyond the reception capacity of the host communities. However, discussions are ongoing to find the most appropriate way to provide them the support they need.”
UNHCR has deployed an emergency team of 16 staff members as well as 18 people from partner organisations. The team is joined by a WFP Emergency Officer. Pre-registration of refugees began on 4 March in Mobayi-Mbongo, 45 kilometres from the town of Gbadolité in Equateur Province.
Early this week, WFP transported 175 metric tons of food - maize meal, pulses, vegetable oil and iodized salt - to Gbadolité to meet the immediate needs of some 22,000 refugees with 15-day rations.
UNHCR brought non-food items including 2,500 kitchen sets, 6,000 jerry cans, 3,000 tarpaulins, 5,000 mosquito nets, 5,000 blankets, 5,000 sleeping mats, 6,000 buckets and five tons of soap. This amount of equipment, however, will not be enough to meet all their needs.
The nutritional status of the refugees is alarming, with a global acute malnutrition rate of 21 percent among children under five. To treat moderate acute malnutrition, WFP has provided 20 tons of a peanut-based, ready-to-use supplementary food, for 3,500 children for two months. To prevent further deterioration of the food security and nutrition situation, WFP will also provide high energy biscuits to meet the emergency needs of 11,000 children and women for six days.
WFP and UNHCR have also distributed assistance to the newly arrived refugees in Orientale Province. Access to the refugees, however, remains a challenge due to the lack of adequate roads infrastructure and the threat posed by armed groups in the region.
The UN is also assisting hundreds of thousands of Congolese people displaced by violence within their own country, helping them to return home to rebuild their lives.
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