ACTED provide support to the refugees from DRC alongside the Oubangui river
Meeting the refugees from DRC in the Likouala province, Republic of Congo
The Likouala, North of the Republic of Congo, is an isolated department only accessible through the Oubangui river. Within the last 6 months, this department has witnessed the arrival of over 100,000 people fleeing ethnic conflicts in the Equateur Province in DRC. ACTED has opened a base in Bétou in January 2010 to provide support to these vulnerable families which have left everything behind. Since then, host populations have shared their limited resources with the thousands of refugees.
Since October 2009, over 100,000 people, among which a vast majority of women and children, have left their home villages in DRC and have crossed the Oubangui river to seek refuge in the villages across the border in the Republic of Congo. The outpour of refugees has come to an end in January 2010, while only a few people have crossed the river since. However, despite what seems like a return to normal in Equateur, refugees are still unwilling to return because of continuing security issues in the region.
A lasting situation
Most of the refugees have been hosted par local families in the villages in Congo; both populations sharing crops thanks to the solidarity shown by host populations. Some others have built makeshift shafts next to the indigenous’ accommodation. Most of the refugees had already been in this region after fleeing similar violence in 2000 and some families are split between the two banks of the river. The refugees were to stay only a few months, but tensions are still vivid and the conditions for a safe return not met yet, as illustrated by the attack of April 4th on the city of Mbandaka in Equateur.
Refugees are remaining and this contributes to increasing the pressure on available resources for host families which are now facing the same difficulties as those of the refugees. Indeed, after 8 months, the fields of manioc are running out and the Likouala department is facing a food crisis unseen before, with an increasing number of malnutrition affections since January 2010.
Another problem is access to clean water. Most villages are scattered alongside the banks of the river to facilitate access to water; but the massive arrival of refugees has taken its toll on the wells available which are not in capacity to cover all the needs. Therefore, populations are using the river for all purposes: washing, drinking and for personal needs. Diarrhoeas among children are skyrocketing and one fears a cholera outbreak should there be no improvement in terms of access to clean water.
To cover the emergency, ACTED has started operations in Bétou, host to some 59,000 refugees, and is distributing food items to 20,000 people with the WFP. ACTED has also been distributing hygiene kits to 1,250 vulnerable families with the support of the French Centre de Crise.
Drinking water, a dire issue in the Likouala
190 wells are needed to cover the daily needs (10 litres / person / day) in drinking water of the populations living on the river, North and South of Bétou as well as in the city. As of today, only 15 wells are in place thus underlying the emergency of the situation. Vast projects of wells construction should be implemented before the end of 2010 by a small number of NGOs in order to avoid an outbreak of deadly epidemics, especially among children and elderly people.
A global strategy combining emergency and rehabilitation
There are few relief actors in the field because of the difficult access to the area. ACTED has thus launched a water and sanitation assessment in April 2010 in order to identify the most urgent needs and provide aid to the refugees. ACTED will rehabilitate 36 wells while digging another 20 and launching a hygiene sensitization campaign for 16,800 mothers and children. Our team on the ground will also work in order to support local farming capacities through the distribution of farming kits, livestock kits and fishing kits as well as the organisation of trainings to best farming techniques as to contribute to the recovery process and to reduce the increasing food insecurity.
Food crisis in the Likouala region
After having fled their home villages in haste, refugees find themselves in a state of high destitution, without any tools, seeds or fishing materials. Local crops are running out and the populations are left with nothing. 110,000 people are facing dire consequences if no mid-term solutions are implemented to answer this food crisis and to decrease the pressure of the Equateur’s refugees on the resources of this area of Congo.
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