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Hundreds displaced return home after nine years

KINSHASA, 18 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Some 1,000 people who had fled their homes to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, for six to nine years have returned to their villages in the provinces of Equateur in the northwest of the country and Orientale in the northeast, humanitarian aid workers said on Thursday.

The returnees, travelling in two convoys, left Kinshasa in October, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which supports the Congolese government's repatriation programme for war-displaced people.

"Some 200 of them arrived on Wednesday in Basankusu, some 300 others arrived four days earlier in Mbandaka (capital of Equateur), while others groups are still on their way to different directions, to Lisala and Bumba farther north in Equateur Province, and to Kisangani in Orientale Province," Joseph Désiré Kasiwa, an assistant in UNDP's post-conflict programme, told IRIN Thursday.

He said another 100 people were still travelling on the River Congo and were scheduled to arrive in Lisala and Bumba in two weeks. Another group of 250 went farther northwest towards villages along the Ubangi River.

"There are teams of nurses in case people need care and policemen, deployed by the Ministry of Social Affairs, are present on the boats in order to support the displaced people," Kasiwa said.

The UNDP said the repatriation of the displaced was part of the government's programme. However, the government still has to come up with a reintegration programme for the displaced.

The UNDP, through the Jesuit Refugee Service, an NGO, provided funds for the displaced people to buy household goods to help them resettle in their villages.

"The money was given according to the size of the family, to enable each family to buy goods it needs to settle back in its village," Kasiwa added.

The director of public information in the UN Mission in the Congo, Kemal Saiki, said the UN World Health Organization provided aid kits to support the local Red Cross who had launched a vaccination drive against measles for children between aged up to six years in Mbandaka.

Saiki said on 11 November, the returnees received food, non-food aid and the money from the UNDP and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) while MONUC provided them with drinking water.

Kasiwa said three camps for the displaced in Kinshasa had been emptied since the departure of the convoys to Equateur and Orientale.

"The camp set up in Tata Raphaël stadium is totally empty, while people in the camps of Nganda Mosolo and Sicotra, around Kinshasa, are waiting for planes to go back to Kivu, Katanga, Isiro and Bunia districts, in the northeast of the country," he said.

The people were displaced by civil war, which has ravaged the country since 1996, causing the displacement of an estimated 4.5 million people and the deaths of up to 3.5 million others, mostly from disease and hunger.

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