Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
In 2020, the complexity of the DRC crisis continued as the security situation progressively deteriorated due to ongoing inter-ethnic conflicts and armed attacks in South Kivu. This situation was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recurrence of an Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Since 2019 and throughout 2020, increased violence combined with other root causes, such as major socioeconomic challenges, structural deficiencies, and the dynamics around governance and mineral resources, have given rise to the massive internal displacement of almost 5 million people, making it the largest IDP situation in Africa.
The majority of displaced people remain within DRC, but tens of thousands of new refugees have fled across borders since the beginning of 2020. Refugees continued to flee mostly from eastern areas of North and South Kivu and Ituri provinces to Uganda and other Great Lakes countries, and from Haut Katanga and Tanganyika to Zambia and other southern African countries. Some host countries in the region experienced reduced outflows, while other countries, especially Burundi and Angola, reported a net reduction in the Congolese population attributed to spontaneous returns, suggesting a general stability in some areas of origin.
Congolese refugees’ needs in the region remain significant, and the precarious situation of most of the countries hosting refugees amid the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of bringing humanitarian and protection assistance closer. COVID-19 prevention measures resulted in increased protection risks for DRC refugees with specific needs. Reports of GBV increased, and measures such as the closure of schools and the suspension of child-friendly spaces and sports activities led to increased child neglect, and adolescent engagement in negative coping mechanisms. In Zambia, a significant reduction in the attendance of girls in schools has been recorded since the lockdown. Furthermore, the prolonged periods of lockdown measures to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 had a negative impact on refugees’ economic situation, as they were unable to engage in their usual livelihood activities.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
The 2021 DRC RRP brings together 70 partners. It aims to address the needs of new arrivals of Congolese refugees in the region and those in protracted situations, and to assist impacted members of host communities. Protection and assistance will be provided to Congolese refugees and asylum seekers by all humanitarian and development partners involved in the DRC RRP. There will be an increased focus on developing sustainable livelihood opportunities in line with the Global Compact on Refugees for both refugees and the host population, thereby fostering peaceful coexistence. UNHCR and partners will continue advocacy with the host country authorities for the inclusion of humanitarian responses in national system services, mainly in the areas of education, health, water and social services.
Response priorities in 2021
In 2021, child protection priorities will include strengthening child protection networks and continued case management, and the monitoring and follow up of unaccompanied and separated children. Family tracing and reunification will also be facilitated. In education, the response will aim to provide remedial/catch-up lessons for pupils unable to follow distance learning programmes and for important classes linked to examinations.
Through the RRP, partners will aim to strengthen livelihoods and the resilience of DRC refugees and host communities. In Zambia, partnerships will be strengthened with pre-identified financial institutions to enhance access to financial services, financial literacy training, basic entrepreneurship skills training, business capital provision, and market information access to individuals and community micro savings and lending groups. In ROC, agencies will fund income-generating activities of mixed groups (host population and refugees/asylum seekers) in order to promote a peaceful coexistence between the two populations. Partners will continue to organize capacity-building workshops to develop skills in managing small business projects. In Burundi, some of the main actions proposed for young and adult refugees are vocational training and internships in local enterprises, training and financial support of income-generating activities, and support in agriculture techniques and materials.
In 2021, RRP partners will continue to work on environmental projects, such as those established in Rwanda. There will be continued engagement with the Ministry of Emergency Management in projects that will benefit refugees and host communities under International Development Association funding from the World Bank.
Response programmes in Southern Africa have been adapted to observe social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures. In 2021, RRP partners will continue to focus on risk communications to spread information about COVID-19 prevention and services. Additional handwashing facilities will be installed, and additional soap will be distributed to continue good hygiene practices and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. To respond to refugees’ multiple health needs, partners will increase health-care access. COVID-19 case tracing will be strengthened, and additional qualified health professionals will be employed.
Voluntary repatriation operations will resume in 2021, providing conditions are conducive for a sustainable return. In ROC, approximately 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers from DRC have expressed their intention to return. Their voluntary repatriation will be organized, providing that resources are made available. Local integration will be supported for those who wish to remain. RRP partners will continue processing vulnerable cases of DRC refugees who need resettlement.
- The people in need and people targeted figures include refugees, as well as impacted members of host communities. They are, however, provisional and subject to ongoing operational planning for 2021. Financial requirements are preliminary, and pending finalization and approval by partners.