Newly displaced Congolese refugees face dire living conditions

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Thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

United Nations aid agencies are warning of a major humanitarian crisis in western Uganda, where tens of thousands of Congolese refugees are resisting efforts to relocate them to safer areas.

The UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) says the nearly 70,000 refugees are spread out along the hilly border, where conditions are tough and getting help to them is difficult.

UNHCR says only about 2,000 refugees have so far been transported to a transit centre located 20 kilometres away from the Uganda-DR Congo border.

Many refugees say they want to remain near the border where it is possible for them to go back to their towns and villages to get food and check on their properties.

Congolese refugees have been streaming across the border into western Uganda since last Thursday, following a rebel attack on the town of Kamango in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Adrian Edwards is the UNHCR Spokesperson.

"At the same time, and although the Congolese government is encouraging people to come back, refugees are not willing to return immediately to their homes because of the continuing dangerous situation in the region of North Kivu. We are worried about the current situation of the people, as conditions many are living in are dire. The refugees are spread out along the hilly border area, it's very difficult to find drinking water and food, sanitation and hygiene is problematic. We believe that the longer they stay at the border, the more likely there is to be an outbreak of disease. This is the reason were are trying to persuade refugees that if they wish to receive protection, shelter and other help, they should come to the transit centre. The transit centre can hold 10,000 people; we are seeking additional land for another 10,000. This would also help UNHCR and the government of Uganda to do a more thorough registration of the refugees and identify people in need of protection and other help." 

The World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered enough food to feed 20,000 people for five days, with more food due to arrive on Thursday, while the UN Children's fund (UNICEF) is providing water and sanitation facilities and child protection services.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 2:12″

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