The U.N. refugee agency is rushing to relocate thousands of Central African refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo away from the dangerous border areas to safer sites farther inside the country.
An estimated 92,000 refugees from the Central Africa Republic fled south into Congo late last year to escape election-related violence in their country. U.N. refugee agency spokesman Boris Cheshirkov says they are living precariously in 40 remote places in northwestern Congo.
"Most Central African refugees are now living along riverbanks in hard-to-reach border areas, among host communities with extremely limited resources," he said. "Conditions are dire, with many refugees sleeping in makeshift shelters or out in the open. Most have little to no access to drinking water, sanitation or food. Some have been welcomed by host families, sometimes up to three refugee families in a single home."
Cheshirkov says the refugees must be relocated quickly because of the logistical difficulties of providing them with essential assistance where they are. It will become even harder to reach them during the coming rainy season when roads become impassable.
Besides the need to provide food, shelter and water, he says health needs are becoming increasingly urgent.
"We recently had a joint evaluation team among U.N. agencies, NGOs and local provincial health authorities and we are very concerned that there might be a measles outbreak," he said. "There already are cases that have been registered. Only 30 percent of the refugee children have been vaccinated. We are calling for a vaccination drive."
Cheshirkov says the UNHCR and Congo's National Refugee Commission are developing a site for 10,000 refugees in Modale village in North Ubangi province and a second site is being considered in Bas Uele province.
Additionally, he says four relocation sites will be prepared for some 35,000 refugees to live alongside local communities. These refugees, he says, will be able to grow their own crops and live a more independent life.
The UNHCR says as the needs of the Central African refugees increase, so do the funding requirements. The agency is urging the international community to respond generously to its recent appeal for $164.7 million so it can deliver lifesaving support to these vulnerable people.
Source: Voice of America