At the end of 2017, over 685,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were seeking protection in neighbouring countries, including Angola,
Burundi, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, the Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. In 2018, the crisis in the DRC drastically worsened, spreading to previously unaffected areas and impacting the Great Lakes region. The majority of the Congolese refugees are women and children and nearly 55 per cent are under 18, many crossing borders unaccompanied or separated from family members. About 8 per cent of the total population are persons with specific needs, including survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), persons living with HIV and AIDS and persons with disabilities.
As of 30 August 2017, Zambia began to receive refugees fleeing conflict in Pweto and Moba areas in the DRC. The refugees arrived through informal and formal borders crossings into Luapula, Western and North-Western Provinces and many were hosted at a temporary transit centre at Kenani. Mantapala refugee settlement in Luapula Province was established in response to the Congolese influx in 2018 and is the main settlement receiving new arrivals. The majority of the refugees have a farming, trading or artisan background. The Mantapala settlement has the capacity of receiving an additional 5,000 individuals. A second site has been identified with potential capacity of up to 50,000 new arrivals. Following the elections in the DRC in 2019, the numbers of new arrivals started to reduce, but there is a steady trickle of refugees seeking protection or family reunification of approximately 4-500 persons/month.
The infrastructure and services are still being established in the settlement, with one health clinic, two schools that remain uncompleted, emergency shelter (tarpaulins and RHUs) and semi-permanent latrines still under construction. The emphasis during 2019, has been to reinforce protection services (protection outreach, SGBV identification, referral and response and child protection), but the lack of funding and partners continues to be a challenge.
Zambia has adopted a comprehensive refugee response approach as envisioned by the New York Declaration of 2016, which guided the country’s response to the refugee emergency. The framework envisages an all-ofsociety approach with solid investment and support from the international community in various key life-saving sectors to guarantee a dignified reception and productive stay in the country of asylum. The Government of Zambia (GRZ) co-ordinates the response to refugee arrivals through the Office of Commissioner for Refugees (COR), with the direct support of UNHCR. An Inter-Ministerial Committee was established in 2017 to co-ordinate the response to the Congolese refugee situation. An Inter-Agency Task Force for the Congolese Situation, cochaired by UNHCR and COR in Lusaka, co-ordinates the ongoing reception and response through monthly coordination meetings, while in Mantapala a similar inter-agency task force with sectoral working groups on protection, WASH, health, shelter and education co-ordinates the response in bi-weekly co-ordination meetings.