UNHCR staff in Kaputa, northern Zambia, reported earlier this week that they could hear shelling in southeastern DRC as fighting between rebels and government forces took place near the border. Congolese refugees arriving in Zambia said that the village of Musossa had been taken by rebels.
The battles have not resulted in a major influx, but several hundred DRC government soldiers have crossed into Zambia during the past days, including several wounded.
The number of refugees in villages in northern Zambia has remained stable, at around 25,000, over the past week in part because Congolese from the border region have tried to return to their homes during lulls in the conflict. But UNHCR staff are concerned that the current rebel push could cause a major refugee exodus from the larger DRC town of Pweto.
Transfers from the Kaputa area to a camp at Mporokoso continue. The site now has a population of 9,000, and UNHCR has started planning for a second camp. The Government has chosen land for an additional site and this week received a cash donation for the operation from the Organization of African Unity's commission on refugees.
In western DRC, refugees continue to arrive who are fleeing fighting and hardship in neighboring Congo (Brazzaville). UNHCR staff who traveled to the Bas-Congo area this week report that hundreds of refugees are emerging daily from forests which border Congo's Pool region, southwest of Brazzaville.
Some refugees have fled fresh confrontations between the government and the Ninja militia.
Others said they have been trying to eke out an existence in the forest on either side of the border since being forced from their homes four months ago. Many of these are trying to return to their homes in areas where security has returned, and UNHCR has provided transport for almost 5,000 Congolese in order to ensure passage around the disputed Pool area. Refugees who cannot repatriate are being moved to a UNHCR camp at Luozi.
UNHCR staff say there is a high rate of malnutrition among those arriving in DRC villages now, especially among children. An estimated 20,000 refugees fled insecurity which began in Congo (Brazzaville) in late November last year.
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