The United Nations Refugee Agency has expressed concerns about the growing violence in parts of south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has driven more than 3,360 refugees into northern Zambia since August 30th.
Since the beginning of 2017, about 5,761 Congolese have crossed the border into Zambia. In total, there are 27,338 Congolese refugees and asylum seekers in the country, among a population of 60,606 refugees and asylum seekers.
The inter-ethnic clash and fighting between the Congolese security forces and militia groups, have led to so many Congolese refuges seeking asylum in Zambia.
Migration journey so far, has not been smooth, as those arriving Zambia report extreme brutality and death of many civilians, women raped, looting of properties and burning of houses. These the people have suffered before getting to Zambia; mainly those from the DRC provinces of Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika.
60% of those arriving in Zambia are children, many of which show signs of malnutrition—Malaria, respiratory problems, dysentery and skin infections are common among the refugees— who are in urgent need of protection and life-saving support.
Many were already displaced internally before they crossed the border. The lack of roads and the long distances they had to travel before they get to their destination, make it difficult to monitor the situation and provide them with assistance.
With the rainy season approaching, UNHCR warns that the humanitarian needs of those displaced could intensify on both sides of the border.
According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHC), this is the largest influx of Congolese refugees into Zambia in the past five years. And the UNHCR is worried, that the insecurity in DRC may lead to further displacement.
On arrival the Congolese refugees are registered by the Zambian authorities, most are relocated to the Kenani transit centre in Nchelenge district, about 90 kilometres from the border, while, some of the new arrivals remain close to the border, waiting for their families to cross.
As aid, the Zambian government, UNHCR and Zambian Red Cross are distributing hot meals and identifying those with specific needs. They are also, providing psycho-social support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. The humanitarian response team is delivering basic items, including tents, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, blankets, buckets, hygiene kits and soap. Temporary shelters are being erected, boreholes are being drilled for drinking water and temporary latrines are being constructed.
In such an environment, overcrowding tends to be a challenge, however, to ease overcrowding, UNHCR started work on a second transit facility to receive the growing number of new arrivals. With hopes of developing a more permanent settlement with a social infrastructure, where new arrivals will be able to stay for longer and develop some self-sufficiency.