UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi on Friday urged more international support for Democratic Republic of Congo as it struggles with one of the largest internally displaced populations in Africa while hosting half a million refugees fleeing conflict elsewhere in the region.
“We need greater commitment and solidarity with this country and local communities that continue to open their arms and their homes to refugees, despite having very limited resources,” Grandi said.
During a three-day mission to the country, Grandi travelled to DRC’s northern region bordering the Central African Republic where according to local authorities 92,000 refugees have arrived in the past four months, following post-election violence in CAR.
Meeting with refugees in this remote area, Grandi heard accounts of brutal violence, and personal loss and praised the crucial role played by Congolese communities on the border that have taken in those fleeing armed groups in CAR.
“In this isolated area where poor road conditions make delivering humanitarian assistance a huge challenge, local villagers have provided life-saving assistance by sharing their modest shelters and limited food with the refugees," said Grandi.
UNHCR is working to relocate refugees away from the border, to safer sites as the security situation remains volatile, the agency stated.
Grandi commended local communities at the new sites who have offered land to the newly arrived refugees and welcomed children into their schools. “Refugees can grow their crops alongside the host community, become self-reliant, access local health services and schools. This is real inclusion," he said
During his visit, Grandi held talks with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and senior members of the government and discussed the challenges posed by the 5.2 million internally displaced people, refugees being hosted by the country and Congolese who have sought asylum abroad.
Protection of civilians in conflict-hit areas of DRC, especially in its east, must be improved and development interventions had to be more strategically targeted, Grandi and Tshisekedi agreed.
Grandi was due to travel to Goma, in troubled North Kivu province on Friday to meet people displaced by the ongoing violence in the north-east of the country.
UNHCR has received pledges for just 16 percent of its 2021 appeal for 204.8 million dollars, which is impacting its response in DRC.