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February 06, 2020

Democratic Republic of the Congo Refugee Crisis Explained

map of africa with democratic republic of the congo highlighted blueThe Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa and is both a major source of displaced people while also hosting several refugees from neighboring countries. The DRC currently hosts more than half a million refugees and five million internally displaced people (IDPs) - the largest IDP population in Africa. 

Here’s What You Need to Know:

1. Who is fleeing to the DRC?

2. What is causing internal displacement within the DRC?

3. Where are refugees from the DRC going?

4. How has the Ebola outbreak impacted refugees in the DRC?

5. Who is most vulnerable during this crisis?


Who is fleeing to the DRC?

The DRC hosts over 527,000 refugees from neighboring countries. This primarily includes individuals from Rwanda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Burundi. Over fifty-percent of these refugees are women and children.


What is causing internal displacement within the DRC?

In addition to the over half a million refugees living in the DRC, there are also 5 million people who have been internally displaced due to conflict in the country. Ever since the DRC won its independence in 1960, there has been ongoing fighting throughout the country. Despite the end of a civil war in 2003, violence continues to plague regions of the DRC and has forced millions to flee from their homes.

Where are refugees from the DRC going?  

While millions have been forced to flee their homes but remain within the country, approximately one million people have fled to neighboring countries, such as Uganda, Southern Africa, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. At the beginning of this year, nearly 400,000 Congolese have sought refuge in Uganda.     


How has the Ebola outbreak impacted refugees in the DRC?

In addition to widespread violence from armed groups, many displaced people are facing major health risks. Since August 2018, the country has been battling the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded in the country and the world’s second largest in history. The World Health Organization has declared the ongoing outbreak a public health emergency of international concern with more than 3,300 confirmed cases of infection and 2,200 deaths. The eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, which are most affected by the outbreak, are also the areas most affected by displacement and violence. 

UNHCR is scaling up its capacity to respond to the growing humanitarian needs. Refugees and IDPs are at a heightened risk in this situation because displacement can limit access to medicine and clean water, making the spread of disease more common. Some of UNHCR’s primary efforts in the DRC include constructing emergency latrines, showers and garbage pits to aid sanitation efforts, as well as distributing medical resources, shelter, food and water.


Who is most vulnerable during this crisis?

The most vulnerable people during this crisis are women and children. Displacement increases a woman’s risk to sexual and gender-based violence. For children, many lose access to education. While UNHCR works to integrate all displaced children within the DRC into a national education system, many of the schools still lack to resources necessary to effectively support the staff and students.

woman sits with her two children in crowd

Millions in the DRC need your help…

UNHCR is on the ground providing lifesaving humanitarian support to millions of IDPs and refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, they need your help. Becoming a monthly donor is the most efficient and effective way to help those fleeing conflict. Make a difference in the lives of refugees by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor