Central Africa UN refugee chief urges regional approach to displacement crisis

After witnessing the optimism of refugees returning home and the despair of other groups fleeing drought and hunger in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, the head of the United Nations refugee agency said today that only a regional approach could address the complex causes of displacement.“It is not possible to solve the problems of the region on a strictly country-by-country approach,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres declared at the end of a week-long trip to Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.In the first three war-torn countries he was on an unprecedented joint mission with the heads of the two other largest UN humanitarian agencies, James Morris of the World Food Programme (WFP), and Ann Veneman of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)“The problems, both political and humanitarian, require a regional approach,” Mr. Guterres told a press conference in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. “The problems of refugees can also only be solved if we have a regional approach.”The three leaders stressed that what they saw and heard showed the need for closer cooperation among UN agencies, with the support of the international community, to help refugees, internally displaced people and returnees. All three agencies are dramatically under-funded for their work in the Great Lake countries.Yesterday, Mr. Guterres saw for himself the squalid living conditions of some 5,000 Burundians sheltering in overcrowded transit centres centre in Nyakimonomono, western Tanzania. Over the last few weeks, a growing number of Burundians have been crossing the border to seek refuge, citing lack of food and growing insecurity.The Tanzanian government has not yet allowed them to move to established refugee camps and they are stuck in a way station that was intended to accommodate people for only one or two days. But at least they get food, shelter and medical care. Some 300 more Burundians are arriving every day.Mr. Guterres pledged to work together with WFP to supply food on the Burundian side of the border so people don’t have to leave their homeland just to eat. “It would be insane if in today’s world one would have to cross the border to feed himself or herself,” he said.In both DRC and Burundi, he stressed the need for the police and army to be paid regularly – even their low salaries of $10 a month are not actually paid – so that they stop preying on the local population, stealing money and food and raping women.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *