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Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (A/63/321)

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Sixty-third session
Item 42 of the provisional agenda*
Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions

(covering the period 1 January 2007-15 June 2008)
Report of the Secretary-General


The present report is submitted in compliance with General Assembly resolution 62/125 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-second session (A/62/316) 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 2007 and the first half of 2008.

I. Introduction

1. Displacement by armed conflict and other situations of violence in Africa increased during 2007, with the total number of uprooted people growing by approximately 1 million. At the end of 2007, the total population of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stood at 15.2 million, with internally displaced persons (IDPs) outnumbering refugees by a wide margin. The estimated 12.7 million IDPs in Africa make up almost half the worldwide total. African nations hosted 2.3 million refugees in 2007, continuing the trend of decreasing numbers observed since 2001.

2. Underlying these broad trends are both the significant progress made in achieving durable solutions and the impact of several new population movements across the continent. During the reporting period, more than 2 million displaced people found solutions to their plight. This was largely a result of the consolidation of peace and stability in some countries of origin, but is also due to the generosity of various African States that offered local integration, and of countries elsewhere in the world that provided resettlement opportunities. In 2007, an estimated 300,000 refugees and 1.7 million IDPs made the decisive step of returning home, often after years of exile. Their joy was frequently tempered, however, by the difficulties of reintegrating in communities affected by conflict. Significant progress was made in the local integration of residual refugee groups in Central, Southern and West Africa. For some 19,000 refugees across the continent, third-country resettlement provided the most appropriate long-term solution.

3. At the same time, conflict in the north of the Central African Republic, Chad, North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and the Darfur region of the Sudan caused new displacement within and across international borders and exacerbated already dire humanitarian situations. Providing assistance and protection was challenging, frequently dangerous and yet vital for millions of people fleeing insecurity, political unrest and persecution.

4. African countries continued to require the bulk of international funding for humanitarian emergencies and operations. Between January 2007 and July 2008, just over 5.5 billion United States dollars (US$) was received for humanitarian activities in Africa identified in 36 inter-agency appeals of the United Nations and partners. The majority of those appeals were for activities benefiting displaced people. The Central Emergency Response Fund contributed to ensuring a more predictable response to emergencies, including grants for Africa of over $398 million against global disbursements of $613 million. In addition, several donors continued to pool humanitarian resources for the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, giving the humanitarian coordinators in those countries a strategic funding mechanism to ensure early support for critical activities. United Nations entities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) received significant funding through emergency response funds in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, the Sudan and Zimbabwe.

II. Regional overviews

A. East Africa and the Horn of Africa

5. East Africa and the Horn of Africa were hard hit by conflict and natural disasters, particularly Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the Sudan, resulting in additional population displacements. Overall, the number of refugees in this region increased by 15 per cent in 2007 despite improvements in Southern Sudan that allowed a significant number of refugees and IDPs to return.

The Sudan

6. The Sudan is the scene of the largest humanitarian operation in Africa, including the biggest IDP crisis (5.8 million persons) and refugee repatriation operation. The Sudan was also the largest refugee-producing country in 2007 (523,000 refugees) on the continent.

7. Darfur remained in a state of humanitarian emergency as a result of unabated violence and deteriorating security. New displacement occurred within Darfur and into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic. The estimated 4.2 million people living in Darfur have been affected by the conflict, including more than 2.5 million who are displaced. Despite a massive presence of aid agencies, insecurity, including increasing numbers of incidents targeting humanitarian workers, and restrictions on humanitarian access and space impeded efforts to deliver assistance. Although the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur was in place by the end of 2007, it lacked equipment and sufficient personnel to implement effectively its mandate to protect civilians.

8. Southern Sudan has moved slowly towards recovery following the milestone 2005 peace agreement and the deployment of a peace-support operation. Between 2005 and the end of 2007, some 202,200 refugees went home from neighbouring countries and 1.6 million IDPs returned or settled elsewhere throughout the Sudan. Strong recovery and development-oriented assistance is critical at this juncture to secure the fragile peace and build governmental, social and economic infrastructure needed to sustain returns. Another challenge is the need to address serious political issues ahead of the 2009 elections and the 2011 referendum, including the contested area of Abyei, where recent violent clashes resulted in the displacement of some 50,000 civilians.

9. Although Eastern Sudan remained relatively stable, it suffers from chronic underdevelopment and food insecurity. This region continued to receive asylum-seekers, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. More than 15,000 new arrivals have been recorded since early 2007. Livelihood opportunities remain insufficient and living conditions in camps are substandard, particularly in the sanitation sector, where less than 25 per cent of the population has access to latrines.