The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s most complex, challenging and forgotten crises. With 4.5 million people internally displaced and more than 740,000 Congolese refugees across Africa, the humanitarian situation deteriorated sharply in 2017. Refugees have been fleeing to neighbouring Angola, Burundi, the Republic of the Congo (RoC), Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia in large numbers. Several thousand have also fled further South towards the Southern Africa Region, mainly to Malawi and South Africa, but also to Kenya and several other countries in Africa and beyond. Since 2015, the number of people displaced internally has more than doubled and in 2017 alone, there were more than 2 million newly displaced in the DRC. In 2017, some 100,000 Congolese fled to neighbouring countries as refugees joining the 585,000 already in exile. In the first months of 2018, a further 55,000 refugees have fled the DRC. The majority of Congolese refugees are women and children. Nearly 55 per cent of the Congolese refugees are under 18, many crossing borders unaccompanied or separated.
With widespread militia activities, and unrest and violence fuelled by ethnic and political conflict affecting many areas within the DRC, the risk of further displacement both inside and beyond borders is high. The situation has worsened since April 2017 with intense intercommunal conflict in the Kasai region causing large-scale internal displacement. Tens of thousands of Congolese fled to Angola and Zambia. In the Kasais, clashes between militia groups resumed towards the end of 2017 starting to reach the larger population centres. The security situation has continued to deteriorate in central DRC, in particular in the provinces of Tanganyika, Haut-Katanga and Kivu regions, due to the activities of armed groups in the east and north of the country and the resurgence of inter-communal conflicts. The Province of Ituri has also been affected by clashes between armed groups and the Congolese (FARDC) army. These on-going conflicts continue to cause internal and external displacement of populations, loss of human life and property.
As a result, the Emergency Relief Coordinator declared an IASC System-Wide L3 Emergency Response for the DRC, focusing on the Kasai region, Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces, for a period of six months, effective 20 October 2017. UNHCR activated several internal emergency declarations to respond to refugee flows to neighbouring countries. In Zambia and the Congo, UNHCR activated a Level 1 emergency requiring enhanced preparedness, while Angola was already a Level 2 emergency. On 16 February 2018, UNHCR declared the refugee influx from DRC into Uganda a Level 2 emergency following the sharp increase of new arrivals since 18 December 2017.
Newly arrived refugees have joined existing refugee populations for whom resources have been decreasing in recent years and are largely insufficient to cover food security, nutrition, health and other basic needs or meet minimum standards. In Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and other countries of asylum, refugee settlements and camps are already at full capacity. Funds for livelihood interventions are limited, prolonging refugees’ dependence on external support. In this context, protection and assistance to thousands of new refugees seeking safety in the course of 2017 has been a challenge for host governments and RRP partners.
This Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP) presents the inter-agency response to the renewed and heightened humanitarian challenge posed by the mounting number of Congolese refugees in the countries neighbouring the DRC, including both existing refugee populations and new arrivals. The planning figures are based on a scenario anticipating a slight deterioration of the situation within the DRC. In case of major refugee outflows, the Regional RRP will be revised. The three countries receiving the largest flow of new refugees in 2017, Angola, Uganda and Zambia, have detailed response plans featured as separate chapters within this Regional RRP.