BUNIA, 3 August (OCHA) -- A large number of internally displaced persons in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo regional capital of Bunia are returning home, thanks to the significant advances made by United Nations peacekeepers, government troops and the Congolese National Police in providing 24-hour security in the town and surroundings. The displaced had numbered 17,000 individuals at the height of the political crisis. The international community, including donors (ECHO), non-governmental organizations running the camp and local authorities are encouraging internally displaced persons to voluntarily return home. As a result, humanitarian assistance programmes including food and water distributions, sanitation, health facilities and education, among others, will come to a close on 31 August 2005.
According the site's managing non-governmental organization, Atlas Logistique, of the 5,487 camp dwellers, only 960 individuals are considered vulnerable and will continue to receive the usual humanitarian assistance after the August deadline. "Other persons not in this category who continue to stay in the camp after the said deadline will be considered as normal citizens under the direct administration of the state", explained Yannick Bézy, the Project Coordinator for Atlas Logistique. Food distribution will be handed over to a local non-governmental organization for the continuing care and maintenance programmes of the remaining vulnerable caseload.
"The site no longer represents a humanitarian concern, so we are encouraging the IDPs to return home and take advantage of ongoing community reintegration projects in their communities", said Mr. Bézy. Each returnee family receives a direct assistance of two month's food ration and non-food items.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) who actively advocated for the protection and assistance of the internally displaced persons since the camp's inception in May 2003 now says the time is ripe for internally displaced persons to resume normal activities at home. "We encourage IDPs to take full advantage of the facilities offered to them and return home to rebuild their lives in Bunia and safe areas around", said Dr. Modibo Traore, OCHA Head of Office in Bunia.
The call to return to settlements of origin is supported by the Office of the District Commissioner and the Chairman of the Displaced Committee, Kahwa Paliech Réginald who himself returned to his residence in Bunia. "Most of our people are happy with the return package and will never forget the good Samaritans particularly Atlas Logistique, MSF-Switzerland, Oxfam-UK, COOPI, WFP, UNICEF and OCHA whose humanitarian efforts have kept us alive till this day", said the ex-IDP Chairman.
For futher information, please contact: Michel Bonnardeaux, Public Information, OCHA, DR Congo, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel.: (+243) 0819889151.
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