Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (A/62/316)
Item 44 of the provisional agenda*
Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions
Report of the Secretary-General
The present report is submitted in compliance with General Assembly resolution 61/139 on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa and draws on information received from a number of United Nations organizations. It updates the information contained in the report of the Secretary-General submitted to the Assembly at its sixty-first session (A/61/301) and contains an overview of regional developments across the continent as well as information on specific areas of inter-agency cooperation. The period covered is 2006 and the first half of 2007.
1. The humanitarian situation in most operations in Africa continued to pose a variety of challenges during the reporting period. Efforts to achieve durable solutions for millions of displaced persons were reviewed and adjusted as situations evolved. Successful peace processes have paved the way for the return of an estimated 2.1 million displaced persons, with refugee returns increasing by 11 per cent compared to 2005. A number of refugees who cannot or have chosen not to repatriate will be able to integrate locally in their country of asylum, and thousands of refugees from the region have been resettled to third countries.
2. Thanks to the preceding solutions, there was a slight decline in the estimated number of displaced persons in Africa in 2006. Nonetheless, that decrease cannot hide the grim reality of the extent of forced displacement on the continent. A number of new, renewed or intensified crises produced tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, particularly in the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and the Darfur region of the Sudan. With 2.4 million refugees, Africa hosts a quarter of the world's refugee population, and three out of the top five refugee-producing countries are in Africa. With almost half of the world's 24.5 million internally displaced persons, Africa remains the continent most affected by conflict-related internal displacement. The Sudan alone accounts for more than 5 million IDPs, northern Uganda for between 1.2 and 1.7 million IDPs and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo there are some 1.1 million IDPs.
3. Behind those figures lie the challenges of assisting displaced populations struggling to exist in a bleak environment. Most of the 14.2 million internally displaced persons and refugees in Africa are caught in protracted situations and dependent on limited assistance, and a growing number live in great insecurity. At the same time, further measures and support are needed urgently to ensure that returnees can re-establish themselves in their home communities through reintegration, livelihood and development activities in countries emerging from conflict. The above is all the more pertinent considering that 28 of the 31 lowest-ranking countries on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index are in Africa, with almost half of the population on the continent surviving on less than one dollar a day.
II. Regional overviews
A. East Africa and the Horn of Africa
4. The humanitarian situation in East Africa and the Horn of Africa is of increasing concern to the international community. Despite positive political and security developments in Southern Sudan and in northern Uganda, which have allowed some of the displaced populations to return home, a combination of man-made and natural disasters affecting the subregion have driven people from their homes in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The overall number of refugees and asylum-seekers in the subregion rose by some 88,000.
5. The situation in the Sudan is extremely complex. Southern Sudan is struggling to rebuild itself after more than two decades of conflict. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, close to 157,000 refugees have returned to Southern Sudan from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. The refugee return operations from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were completed in April 2007, and the joint Government of National Unity, Government of Southern Sudan and United Nations return operation for internally displaced persons from the north to the south was launched in 2006. Since the signing of the Agreement, an estimated 1.4 million IDPs have gone back to their areas of origin.
6. In Eastern Sudan, a region plagued by chronic food insecurity and with few livelihood opportunities, there are some 68,000 IDPs and over 133,000 Eritrean refugees in need of humanitarian assistance. Many of the Eritrean refugees have been living in camps for the last four decades; they are the oldest refugee group in Africa. New refugees from Eritrea have been arriving at a steady pace since 2004, including almost 8,600 in 2006, straining already overstretched resources. The lifting of access restrictions to Kassala State in late 2006 has facilitated humanitarian work.
7. More than half of Darfur's estimated population of 6 million is directly or indirectly affected by a conflict that the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement is failing to resolve. Violent incidents, including sexual assaults on women, occur almost daily. Attacks on villages and IDP camps by various militias continue, while the presence of weapons in IDP camps is an increasingly worrying phenomenon.
8. By 2007, the violence took on a regional dimension, having generated not only 2.1 million internally displaced persons in Darfur, but also over 235,000 refugees in eastern Chad, as well as an additional influx of 2,600 people from South Darfur into the north-eastern Central African Republic. Fighting is intermittent along the Chadian-Sudanese border in eastern Chad, and growing insecurity in Chad itself has triggered the flight of 25,000 Chadian asylum-seekers to West Darfur. Some 3,000 asylum-seekers from the Central African Republic, where the security situation has worsened, have fled to the Darfur region. The overall deterioration of security conditions has seriously hampered efforts to protect civilians, limiting access to needy populations to such an extent that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has only irregular access to half the IDPs in West Darfur.