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UNHCR Fears More DRC Refugees Could Drown In Lake Albert :: Uganda Radionetwork
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UNHCR Fears More DRC Refugees Could Drown In Lake Albert

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch in a statement issued to journalists at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday said more lives could be lost on the often perilous lake routes, as increasing numbers of refugees escape intercommunal violence and conflict, across the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC.
13 Feb 2018 18:08
Doriko Wani, 22 a Congolese Refugee from Soba Village
 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency says it is deeply saddened by reports about the drowning of four Congolese refugees that drowned in Lake Albert while fleeing to Uganda.

The four refugees fleeing from fighting in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo died on Sunday after the boat in which they were capsized. Only person survived.   

UNHCRspokesperson Babar Baloch in a statement issued to journalists at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday said more lives could be lost on the often perilous lake routes, as increasing numbers of refugees escape intercommunal violence and conflict, across the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Updates from UNHCR indicate that over 22,000 Congolese crossed Lake Albert to Uganda last week bringing the total number of DRC arrivals in Uganda to about 34,000 since the beginning of the year.

The refugees according to UNHCR either use small canoes or overcrowded and rickety fishing boats, often carrying more than 250 people and taking up to ten hours to cross.

It says the small canoe, which was carrying the four refugees who drowned on 11 February was overloaded with luggage and fishing nets.

UNHCR sais its staff reported  several other incidents of boats going adrift due to engine failure or insufficient fuel, prompting rescue operations by the Ugandan authorities.

Meanwhile, on 7 February, UNHCR partners recorded two more deaths at the DRC shores of Lake Albert, where thousands of people are waiting to cross, as some wrangled to get onto the boats.

UNHCR calls for increased humanitarian access to the area, to cover the population's enormous protection and assistance needs.

Refugees crossing to Uganda according to UNHCR talk of growing attacks against civilian populations, as well as killings and destruction of private property.

UNHCR says its staff also received many reports of civilians being hacked to death and killed with arrows.

It says an elderly man last week died from exhaustion upon arrival in Uganda and that a newborn did not survive complications during its birth.

Meanwhile, UNHCR says crossings through Lake Tanganyika towards Burundi and Tanzania declined significantly last week.

It says some 8000 refugees are in Tanzania while Burundi has about 1200 refugees from DRC. UNHCR says army advances against the armed groups inside DRC, as well as a dwindling supply of readily available fishing boats and canoes, may have contributed to the drop in new arrivals in Tanzania and Burundi. 

UNHCR said it is afraid that flows could soon pick up again, given the unpredictable and volatile nature of the conflict.

Over the past year, some 120,000 Congolese fled to neighboring countries, joining the 510,000 refugees that were already in exile.

With Congolese refugee flows to neighboring countries expected to further increase in 2018, UNHCR is urging donors to step up their support. From the US$368.7 million that UNHCR has requested for the DRC refugee situation, only 1 per cent has been funded so far.

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