18 May 2017
|Thousands of refugees at the border are living in very poor conditions. Many babies, including this in the photo, were born in the camp as access to medical services is limited. (Tim Smith/Jesuit Refugee Service)|
|More than 20,000 people have crossed the border with DRC since early April. Women and children make up the majority of the refugees.|
Dundo, 17 May 2017 - “The situation here is desperately urgent. Thousands of Congolese are fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo and seeking refuge in neighbouring Angola,” reports Tim Smith, JRS Regional Director of Southern Africa, from his visit to north east Angola. More than 20,000 people have crossed the border since early April, fleeing increasing violence in Kasai Province. Women and children make up the majority of the refugees.Refugees are living in extremely poor conditions in over-crowded reception centres, mainly two facilities just on the outskirts of Dundo, a city close to the Congolese border. Mussungue camp is an enclosed set of warehouses used originally by a diamond company, while Cacanda is an old fruit market outside of town.
As the conflict has intensified considerably, and the area is experiencing greater instability, the Congolese who have fled are not expected to go back soon. The centres struggle to accommodate daily arrivals, and many refugees are being hosted by local communities along the border. The resources of these communities are under intolerable strain, and the refugees are in urgent need of assistance.
Relocating the refugees, and delivering emergency humanitarian aid to them, are the most pressing issues. “The situation here is desperate: the refugees have no food, very little water, no sanitation facilities, and no medicines,” said Tim after visiting the two camps. “Scores of refugees were walking along the road from and to the camp, mostly in search of food”.
The inter-agency response is helping address the refugees’ immediate basic needs, providing food and other relief items. JRS has already started working in the area doing psychosocial accompaniment, giving legal advice, protecting children, and raising awareness about the risk of abduction faced by children.
JRS has also been raising awareness on the prevention of Gender Based Violence in both centres, taking care of unaccompanied children, the new-born and the elderly, and the wounded, through the provision of food, clothes, and hygiene packs, and helping with food distribution.
JRS is about to formalise its response in a contract with UNHCR.
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