09 June 2017
Dundo, 9 June 2017 - The Jesuit Refugee Service and UNHCR are responding to the emergency situation in the province of Lunda Norte, Angola, providing support to thousands of Congolese fleeing violence in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.Since March 2017 more than 26,300 have crossed the border. 75% of those fleeing are women and children, among them many unaccompanied minors, as parents send them away to prevent them from being conscripted by paramilitary groups. Youth are among the most vulnerable in situations of conflict and displacement. Some 2,000 children have been recruited since August 2016.
As the causes of the attacks are unclear, it is uncertain how long people will have to remain in exile. On May 29th alone, there were more than 1,200 new arrivals signalling the current intensity of the conflict. This raises protection concerns for people in exile who are in urgent need of assistance.
Most of those displaced are accommodated in two reception centres in Dundo, capital of the northern part of Lunda Norte, where living conditions are far below minimum standards. These facilities are not formal shelters but rather are a disused warehouse complex and an old market fair with limited drinking water, no sanitation, and little food. Given these conditions, malnutrition and other diseases constitute a very real threat. Three children have reportedly already died of malnutrition.
With limited shelter space, some have settled with family members or are being hosted by the surrounding villages, and a considerable number who have been prevented from entering Angola are residing in the surrounding villages.
The inter-agency response is helping address the refugees’ immediate basic needs, providing food and other relief items. JRS has been working in Angola since 2006 and now we are re-establishing our presence in Lunda Norte to respond to the situation, in collaboration with UNHCR.
We provide legal assistance including registration and legal protection to prevent unlawful arrests and deportations. In addition to direct assistance, we are also increasing awareness of asylum and refugee protection law in the country by organising workshops with protection network groups, authorities, the local population, and the refugee community.
JRS will also focus specifically on victims of SGBV by organising awareness workshops on SGBV/HIV-AIDS to increase the visibility of the issue of violence against women and facilitate the process of challenging set attitudes and beliefs around it. While we provide psychosocial support and legal assistance to victims, we also try to mainstream the issue of violence against women and supporting a community-driven campaign addressing the causes.
Finally, JRS is working to establish a legitimate asylum-seeker leadership, that represents their constituencies in all their diversity to ensure effective communication and participation of asylum-seekers in providing solutions.