Democratic Republic of the Congo UNHCR Operational Update, 1 31 December 2019

As of 20 December, UNHCR repatriated 3,133 Central African refugees to areas of the Central African Republic that were assessed as safe, namely the capital Bangui and surrounding prefectures. The operation started on 21 November and will continue in 2020.

UNHCR intensified the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees, in response to the risks faced by dependents of a prominent group in Nyamunyunyi military site,

South Kivu Province. In December, 529 Rwandan refugees were repatriated.

On 15 December, an attack on the village of Kamango, North Kivu Province, led to massive new displacements towards Nobili. Initial estimates are of 24,000 newly displaced households, or up to 130,000 newly displaced individuals.

Refugees

Burundian refugees

Total in DRC 47,570 Women 24,479 Men 23,091 As of 31 December 2019

In December, UNHCR and CNR biometrically registered 882 Burundian asylum-seekers (273 families) at three different Transit Centers (TCs), namely 65 in Mongemonge, 614 in Sange, and 203 in Kavimvira. They will remain in the TCs until they are recognized as refugees by CNR. Most of them arrived in DRC in late 2019, fleeing political tension and violence around the upcoming May 2020 elections in Burundi.

In addition, 368 Burundian asylum-seekers were transferred from Sange TC to Kavimvira TC to decongest the former, which is facing overcrowding. 133 refugees were also transferred from Kavimvira TC to Mulongwe refugee settlement, where they will receive assistance. Refugees usually pass by TCs to be registered and granted refugee status, then are relocated to settlements for assistance.

Refugee women and girls in Lusenda camp had not received menstrual hygiene kits since March 2019, due to a lack of funding and logistical issues, although distributions should take place every three months. In December, UNHCR was able to distribute 4,363 kits consisting of underwear, sanitary pads and soap, however these kits will only last one month. UNHCR needs additional funding to purchase enough quantities of menstrual hygiene kits, to be distributed every three months.

In November, UNHCR and partner ADRA distributed 105,415 kgs of biomass briquettes to 29,463 Burundian refugees in Lusenda camp and 5,638 in Mulongwe settlement. Biomass briquettes are an eco-friendly alternative to firewood, which also enables refugee women not to have to look for firewood in the bush, which exposes them to risks of sexual violence. However, UNHCR is only able to provide briquettes for 1-2 weeks of cooking per month (depending on consumption), due to a lack of funding.

A total of 800 fuel-efficient stoves were also installed, and beneficiaries were sensitized on how to save energy. Using less and alternative energy also helps improving peaceful coexistence between refugees and locals, as it addresses the issue of resource-sharing.

UNHCR provided special assistance to 45 persons with specific needs (PSN), which consisted of bedding, additional milk for children, and clothing. However, due to funding shortfalls, UNHCR was unable to assist all the 2,198 PSN identified in Lusenda camp and Mulongwe settlement.

The World Food Programme (WFP), along with CNR, AIDES and UNHCR, distributed small amounts of cash assistance to 37,400 Burundian refugees in Lusenda camp and Mulongwe settlement, enabling refugees to meet their food needs. Due to limited purchasing power, refugees often have restricted diets consisting of rice, beans and cassava, which can lead to malnutrition and poor nutrition quality.

UNHCR continued agricultural activities for Burundian refugees and host populations, through its partner ADRA. Additional land was made available for plowing, 318 refugees and locals received agricultural training in Lusenda and Mulongwe, and 229 households received seeds. 17,500 seedlings of different species were also planted by refugees and locals together. Cultivating fields together improves both self-reliance and peaceful coexistence among refugees and locals.

Heavy rainfall caused road damages that impacted operational movements on a key axis connecting UNHCR’s Uvira and Baraka offices, which is pivotal for delivering assistance to Burundian refugees.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees