In 2018, the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) drastically worsened, spreading to previously unaffected areas and impacting the Great Lakes region. The ongoing conflicts across much of eastern and central DRC continue to cause significant displacement, damage to property and tragic loss of human life.
While the majority of displaced people remain within DRC, tens of thousands of new refugees have fled across borders since the beginning of 2018. In particular, refugee flows to Burundi,
Uganda and Zambia have increased significantly. New arrivals in those countries have joined refugees from previous waves of violence, the majority being women and children, many of whom are crossing borders unaccompanied or separated.
The unstable security and socio-economic situation in the DRC was further aggravated by an unpredictable political environment and outbreaks such as the Ebola virus disease. The risk of further displacement remains high, and thus would have a disastrous impact on the precarious humanitarian situation and raise the specter of increased regional instability if the crisis is not contained. The underlying drivers of humanitarian needs, including protection, are not expected to change in the coming year. At the same time, DRC continues to host over half a million refugees from neighbouring countries, many of whom have been displaced due to waves of ongoing violence.
Looking forward, the 2019-2020 Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) for the DRC situation aims at addressing the needs of new arrivals of Congolese refugees in the region, and those in protracted situations. By supporting livelihoods opportunities and through a resilience-based approach, refugees will be able to contribute to the development of their host countries, and of their country of origin upon their return. Given the limited capacity of host communities to support the impact of massive numbers of refugees, the response strategy will also address the needs of local populations, strengthening peaceful co-existence and building social cohesion.
Effective interagency cooperation and coordination is imperative to provide strong leverage for peaceful solutions, the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and support to sustainable development. As such, we are pleased to see that the number of RRRP partners has increased from 44 in 2018 to 57 for 2019-2020. However, despite the gravity of the crisis, the refugee response in 2018 was underfunded, raising concerns over basic needs, including food security, health, access to education, and other minimum standards that are often not met, such as proper accommodation in overcrowded refugee settlements.
In the spirit of solidarity, I would like to invite the international community, including UN agencies, international and national NGOs, government counterparts, and donors, to reaffirm their commitment to support the persons in need. We have a shared responsibility to refugees and host communities, to contribute to the delivery of protection and humanitarian assistance, and seek opportunities for development.
Only by joint efforts can we tackle the challenges and achieve positive and lasting results.
Thank you for your support!
UNHCR Regional Refugee Coordinator for the DRC Situation