Violence in the Central African Republic has sparked a cross-border migration of more than 20,000 refugees into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Many settled in spontaneous sites along the bank of the Ubangi River.
In March, the American Red Cross deployed one disaster management specialist, Colin Chaperon, to lead the Red Cross Field Assessment and Coordination Team. This multi-national team worked closely with the local Red Cross to support assessments and response planning to assist refugees who are now living in the DRC.
They were tasked with identifying potential needs and gaps in current assistance to the refugee population and developing a response strategy to meet those needs. Volunteers travelled to remote communities by small boats and motor bikes to ensure relief supplies reach the most vulnerable.
One of the most pressing concerns is the number of unaccompanied children and the immediate need to reunite them with their families.
“Children became separated from their parents during the conflict,” says Colin Chaperon, leader of the IFRC field assessment and coordination team, secunded from the American Red Cross. “They have the same needs as everyone else, but they are also suffering from nightmares. For their overall mental and emotional well being it is critical that we work with the local Red Cross to reunite them with their families as soon as possible.”
The assessments have also raised concerns about the needs of people who have settled along the river bank outside of United Nations camps. Many are fishermen and want to remain near the river to maintain their traditional lifestyle and retain contact with their families on the CAR side of the border.
Currently, they do not have the same access to services as people who have moved to a UN camp and as the rainy season approaches are at a significant risk of another displacement due to flooding. Immediate needs include temporary shelter, food, clean water and reconnecting family members who have been separated.
The DRC Red Cross has been supporting families for five months, but now plans to scale up relief efforts to 3,000 families, approximately 15,000 people. Each family will receive a kit consisting of tarps, cooking supplies, water containers, mosquito nets, and other essential items. Additionally, access to clean water, health care services, reunification of families and disaster preparedness for the upcoming rainy season are a priority.