The Great Lakes region is starting to achieve lasting stability, though the transition process is fragile. Rwanda is experiencing peace and economic recovery; the election of a constitutional Government in Burundi and peace negotiations with warring factions provide the conditions for social and economic development; there is progress towards long-term stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, despite political uncertainties.
Instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and drought and lack of social services in Burundi have a negative influence on Congolese and Burundian refugees’ willingness to repatriate. Voluntary repatriations of Burundian and Congolese refugees by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reduced refugee numbers from 450,000 in 2004 to 350,000 at the end of 2005, but the process was slower than expected.
The agency launched the promotion of voluntary repatriation on 20 June 2006 and is optimistic that the numbers can be reduced to 275,000 refugees in 2007 and 160,000 by the beginning of 2008. Although refugees were expected to return to their countries in significant numbers, it has to be recognized that political and socio-economic factors could trigger a rapid return of refugees.
The donor community needs to recognize the need for flexibility in terms of adjusting refugee numbers and resource levels. In line with WFP’s Strategic Objectives 1 – 4 and Millennium Development Goals 1, 2, 4 and 5, the next phase of the operation will continue assistance for refugees and host areas.
The relief component will provide basic food needs to refugees in north-western Tanzania and the most vulnerable people in the host population. Recovery activities will enable poor communities to acquire livelihood skills to build resilience to future shocks and support construction of social assets that promote access to education, healthcare and agricultural services.
The operation has been designed on the basis of the recommendations of the 2006 joint needs assessment.