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60,000 people leave displacement camps in eastern DRC, about one million in need of humanitarian assistance

GOMA, DRC, 14 October 2009 – 60,000 people or ninety per cent of those living in six official displacement camps near Goma in North Kivu have returned home over the past few days. Around 1 million people remain displaced in the province and continue to require humanitarian assistance, including 91,000 people located in spontaneous displacement sites.
Since peace accords were signed in March 2009, over 160,000 people living with host families have spontaneously returned home in North Kivu according to the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The departure of so many people from the camps represents the continuation of a return process, which UNICEF has been supporting in recent months.

To be durable, it is vital that people’s return home is voluntary, secure and dignified. While the general situation has improved, many areas of return in North Kivu remain insecure. Hundreds of thousands of people face daily threats, uncertainty and hardship as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative for DRC said: “Children are particularly vulnerable to separation from their families, and women and girls are more exposed to sexual violence and exploitation during the return process”.

UNICEF’s partner NGO, Save the Children UK, has set up nine centres in return zones in the territories of Masisi and Rutshuru in North Kivu to identify and reunify separated children with their families. Mobile teams are being deployed to monitor children that may get lost on the roads travelled by returning families.

Sexual violence is also a key risk. The local NGO Heal Africa, another UNICEF partner, has established ten counselling centres where girls and women who have been sexually assaulted can be received and referred to appropriate medical and psychological services.

To inform humanitarian actors about the needs of returnees, UNICEF’s partner, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), has so far assessed the conditions of 70,000 families in return communities. 

Once back home, the priorities of returnees include rebuilding their homes and starting to cultivate for the planting season. Since the beginning of the year, UNICEF and its partners, NRC and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), have provided over 138,000 returnees with essential household items and shelter materials to support their re-integration. In the next few days, 8,000 people returning to Masisi territory will receive family kits with water supplies.

With the recent start of the school-year, the rebuilding of classrooms and distribution of educational materials are imperative to ensure children’s access to education. UNICEF’s ‘Back to school campaign’ will provide 114,200 children and 2,290 teachers with school kits in the coming days in North Kivu.

Ongoing assistance is also required for those unable to return home, such as the sick and the elderly. UNICEF and its partners will continue to provide these people with health care, education, protection, and water and sanitation activities.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in Democratic Republic of Congo
Tel: + 243 81 519 81 42
E-mail: pvuthi@unicef.org

Judith Sarano, UNICEF Communication Specialist for the Eastern zone, Dem.Rep. of Congo
Tel: + 243 81 830 59 33
E-mail: jsarano@unicef.org

Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York
Tel: + 1 212 326 7426
E-mail: pmccormick@unicef.org




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