As a result of the ongoing unrest in the Central African Republic (CAR), thousands of frightened people are fleeing into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to seek refuge from the fighting in their homeland. Since the overthrow of the CAR government by Seleke forces on Sunday March 24, 2013, an estimated 5,000 people have fled to safety in DRC. This is on top of the 22,100 CAR refugees who have arrived in DRC over the past year.
Most have settled on the bank of the Ubangi river in the northwest part of the country and prefer to stay there due to opportunities for fishing the river and the proximity to the border with CAR.
“They are living in dire conditions,” says Josuane Tene, Regional Disaster Management coordinator at International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “People have the bare minimum as far as basic household items, access to clean water, health services and sources of food. For now they are managing to survive on what fish the river provides them.”
Other refugees are living with host families and relying on already scarce resources. “These people need everything from basic household items to clean water, health care and food,“ Tene said.
The majority of those fleeing the violence are reported to be children between the ages of 2-14. “We fear that as many as 2,000 children may have been separated from their parents during the upheaval,“ said Tene. “Reuniting families will be a critical aspect of the emergency appeal we are now launching.”
Given the uncertainty in CAR, it is likely that the number of people fleeing to DRC will continue to rise, especially in the coming days. The IFRC emergency appeal seeks CHF 1,122,910 to support Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in assisting 15,000 people for six months. Funding will support Red Cross staff and volunteers in providing non-food items, emergency shelter, water, sanitation and health care services to refugees, as well as reuniting families.