DR Congo

UN inter-agency mission visits the DR Congo to look into internal displacement challenges

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Geneva, 21 February 2003 - An UN inter-agency mission visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 26 January to 8 February 2003, to look into the challenges facing Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The Mission was led by Mr Guillermo Bettocchi, Senior IDP Advisor at the OCHA Internal Displacement Unit in Geneva, and was composed of representatives of OCHA, WFP, UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, UNHCHR, FAO, MONUC (UN Mission in DRC) and a donor (Italian Cooperation).
With prospects of peace brought about with the signature of the peace accord for DRC on 17 December 2002 in Pretoria, but with reports of serious Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law violations causing displacement, this mission was both timely and opportune.

The Mission aimed at assisting the UN Country Team strengthen coordination mechanisms in place to better address the internal displacement situation across DRC. In relatively stable areas prospects of return/reintegration were reviewed. In other locations the humanitarian situation proved to have aggravated, which resulted in additional displacement of population.

OCHA estimates that presently 2.7 million persons are displaced, against 2 million IDPs in January 2002. Particularly hard hit were North Kivu and Orientale province, where 500,000 people have been displaced in the last 6 months.

Most of the IDPs in DRC have been displaced several times and have lost their few possessions. In addition to homes, schools, health centres and other public social infrastructure are looted and/or destroyed by armed groups. In due time, this will complicate return to places of origin.

The majority of the IDPs seek refuge either in surrounding forests or 'host' communities. Displaced population hiding in the forest are difficult to reach, therefore are not likely to have access to assistance and/or services. This leaves them under very precarious and destitute conditions. Those residing in host communities put additional strain on coping mechanisms of the resident population which are already extremely fragile.

The DRC is divided into 6 areas, 5 of which are controlled by rebel groups. In addition to those, uncontrolled armed groups (MaiMai, Interhamwe, FDD, FNEL,) contribute to spreading violence and targeting civilian population as a strategy of war. Most of the IDPs flee looting, kidnapping, killings, extortions and other human rights abuses. The mission confirmed prevalence of child soldiers; wounded IDPs who report to the hospital disappear; victims of looting are being forced to become looters themselves; and also rape of women being used as a strategy of war. (For example in Uvira area, since October 2002, women associations recorded 5,000 cases of rape, corresponding to an average of 40 a day. Real numbers are expected to be higher as unreported rapes are not accounted for). ''All these violations occur in an environment of total impunity'', said Guillermo Bettocchi, who lead the mission.

The complexity of the internal displacement situation in DRC requires strong and effective coordination mechanisms both at the central and provincial levels. This is particularly difficult in a country where the presence of humanitarian and development actors is very unbalanced, both geographically and sectorally, due to precarious security situations, huge logistical constraints and lack of resources.

Currently humanitarian interventions in the DRC are provided as a response to acute needs as they arise. Insecurity and need for emergency assistance still prevails for the displaced community in the current DRC context. However there are areas of relative stability and security, for example in the province of Equateur, which would allow for initiation of recovery and rehabilitation activities. Also in and around many urban centres in the eastern provinces such opportunities might occur. It is crucial to support and expand these pockets of peace and stability which will contribute to the creation of an enabling environment, build confidence and encourage the return of war affected populations.

The humanitarian and recovery needs resulting from years of conflict and displacement are generally consistently immense across all areas. The mission stresses the urgent need to extend humanitarian support to the internally displaced, which are still uprooted on a daily basis. However, likewise, it advocates for the launch of recovery and rehabilitation activities in pockets where peace and stability seems to prevail, and which could contribute considerably to the consolidation of peace.

CAP requirements for 2003: USD 268 million, no pledges received

CAP requirements for 2002: USD 202 million, USD 94 million received (46,2%)

For additional information, please contact the office of the OCHA Internal Displacement Unit, tel: 022 - 917 26 92 or email: idpunit@un.org.

Website at www.reliefweb.int/idp

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.