As 12,000+ Congolese flee to Zambia, aid funds dry to trickle

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of refugees fleeing militia violence in south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and arriving in Zambia has crossed the 12,000 mark – with more than 8,400 arrivals in the last three months.

Some 80 per cent of the refugees are women and children, driven out by the extreme brutality of rampaging militias, with reports of civilians being killed, women being raped, private property looted and houses torched. Most of the refugees are coming from the Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika Provinces of the (DRC).

The majority of the refugees have crossed into the province of Luapula and are hosted at the Kenani Transit Centre in Nchelenge, about 90 kilometres from the border. People are also entering in other northern and north-western provinces of Zambia.

According to refugees more people could be forced to leave the DRC for Zambia, as fighting is intensifying. Some 4.1 million people remain displaced inside the DRC.

Kenani Transit Centre, which currently hosts over 8,000 refugees is filled to maximum capacity. Zambia has made more land available for a new site to ease pressure on the existing site and accommodate new arrivals. However, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partners are in urgent need of resources to develop the new site and for refugees to receive life-saving assistance including food, shelter, water and sanitation and access to health services.

Humanitarian activities in the DRC and Zambia are hugely underfunded. Of the US$ 236.2 million required to meet the needs of refugees, internally displaced and others in the DRC, only $54.6 million has been received so far. In Zambia, only $13.6 million has been received. In both cases, this is less than a quarter of what is needed.

Zambia currently hosts over 65,000 refugees including some 33,000 from the DRC.