In 2018, the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) drastically worsened, spreading to previously unaffected areas in DRC, and had a negative impact on 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 2019. Refugee flows to Burundi, the Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zambia have increased. 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 revision of this RRRP was mainly prompted by lower than anticipated refugee movements in the region, particularly to Uganda. The revised document contains new population planning figures and financial requirements for 2019 and 2020 for Uganda, and for Zambia, new population planning figures for 2019. Population planning figures and financial requirements for 2020, are provisional and subject to change.
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 soon. 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 appropriate solutions, the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and support to sustainable development. As such, we were pleased to see that the number of RRRP partners increased from 44 in 2018 to 57 for 2019-2020. The revised RRRP includes four new partners in the response, bringing the total number of partners to 61 and the financial requirements to $720 million for 2019. However, despite the gravity of the crisis, the refugee response in 2019 is, so far, only 12 per cent funded, as at May 2019 – raising concerns over the lack of 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!
Ann Encontre UNHCR Regional Refugee Coordinator for the DRC Situation