The New Times (Kigali)

13 August 2012

Rwanda: UN Humanitarian Chief Rallies Support for Congolese Refugees

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has called for an end to conflicts in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

She observed the need for all partners in the region to contribute to solve the crisis, which she said is affecting the whole region.

"It's very important that the political process and the [ongoing] discussions actually result in stability and security which enables them [refugees] to go back," Amos said.

"If I am invited to brief the UN Security Council about what I have seen, I will reiterate the importance of finding a political solution as quickly as possible because people want to go home; they want peace, security and stability."

Amos made the call in a press briefing held in Kigali last week after her meeting with the Prime Minister, Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.

The discussions centred on the ongoing relief efforts in DRC and Rwanda and the ways in which the United Nations and its partners are supporting them.

Earlier, Amos visited Congolese refugees currently sheltered at Kigeme refugee camp in Nyamagabe District, Southern Province.

The camp currently hosts about 11,500 refugees who fled the recent fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels.

Amos, who addressed refugees and listened to their pleas, noted that it was important for warring parties to urgently settle their differences peacefully and cease conflict in order to give refugees a chance to return home.

The official also called for a greater support for people who fled the violence, noting that though the refugees have been able to access basic necessities, there was a greater need of more resources and funding to scale up the support to refugees.

She cited education of refugees as one of the most urgent issues to be tackled.

"We need additional funding to support the refugees," she said. "We need financial support, we need money for education. There are a lot of children here...but there are also a lot of people who have crossed the border and have not been to school at all. "There is need for programmes for adults who have not had an opportunity to go to school", she observed.

She promised that her office will continue to go to its donors to ensure refugees get enough support.

Amos added that the UN had also made efforts to get more relief for the refugees but it is requested neighbouring countries to give assistance to the refugees since the major donors have also cut their aid as a result of the ongoing financial depression in their countries.

"The Government of Rwanda has played a crucial role in the relief efforts, providing a site where families, children separated from their parents, the elderly and other vulnerable persons have sought safety. However, more resources are needed to scale up the response," she said.

Amos' visit to Rwanda was preceded by a visit to DRC. The three-day mission to the two countries was aimed at drawing greater attention to the situation of the Congolese refugees, highlighting the deteriorating humanitarian situation and discussing ways of strengthening relief efforts and mobilizing additional assistance for refugees.

While at the camp, the refugees presented some of the challenges they are facing, including lack of education for children, skills trainings for adults and the lack of employment opportunities.

Antoine Ruvebana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs, reassured the refugees of the Rwandan government's commitment to supporting them in order to ensure their welfare at the camp.

The Rwandan Government together with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are responsible for coordination efforts in Kigeme camp, with UN humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental partners providing basic services such as water, medication and food.

The UN's top humanitarian official, who was here on a one day mission, shared with the ministers the challenges the humanitarian community continues to face including the need for increased financial support to maintain the relief effort. They also discussed regional efforts to resolve the crisis.

In addition to the Congolese who have fled to Rwanda and Uganda, 220,000 people have been displaced in North Kivu Province in DRC since April.

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