Democratic Republic of the Congo


Operation: Opération: Democratic Republic of the Congo



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
144,631 IDPs received cash grants for basic and domestic items
142,447 IDPs received shelter support
15,592 of school-aged refugee children from Burundi and the Central African Republic were enrolled in primary education
10,456  people of concern to UNHCR were supported with registration and documentation to prevent statelessness
4,934 refugees were assisted to return home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo
2021 planning figures
92,000 individuals will be reached by public health and hygiene campaigns
50,000 refugees will be issued with residence permits following advocacy efforts
24,500 people of concern will receive production kits or inputs for agriculture, livestock, and/or fishery activities
6,658 people of concern will receive cash assistance /vouchers for business start-up
70 peaceful coexistence projects will be implemented
60% of people of concern and host communities will be active in gender-based violence prevention and survivor-centred protection

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2020 7,124,516
2019 7,699,931
2018 5,059,095


[["Refugees",490243],["Asylum-seekers",1480],["IDPs",5198131],["Returned IDPs",1434272],["Returned refugees",390]]
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Democratic Republic of the Congo

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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[209.71033615999997,234.31289883999997,198.877860264,155.86684905,168.21985667,204.75074526],"expenditure":[73.23818483,88.617526,91.8951266,109.65337005,109.68896287000001,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[103.12806995999999,136.71162641,107.81339627,97.47881998999999,100.68534792,119.81370856000001],"p2":[1.923405,1.94889796,1.28578031,1.056962,5.7872832999999995,2.6649902],"p3":[29.819203039999998,29.873246,11.1438503,10.63418201,6.2334952800000005,9.28079188],"p4":[74.83965816,65.77912847,78.634833384,46.69688505,55.51373017,72.99125462]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[58.9382084,65.13414131,56.675298340000005,58.0796307,50.96221046,null],"p2":[0.36397887,0.48065037,0.40466331,0.26290483000000003,2.63193214,null],"p3":[3.24760875,3.79706059,0.5195974,7.652771349999999,3.37914443,null],"p4":[10.688388810000001,19.20567373,34.295567549999994,43.65806317,52.71567584,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

In 2020, there were over 2 million newly displaced people, adding to a situation which is among the most complex and enduring humanitarian crises in the world. Some 15.6 million people required humanitarian assistance by year end, including 5.2 million IDPs—the largest IDP population in Africa—and 490,243 refugees. The situation was complicated by a struggle for power and resources between different national and foreign actors, including around 150 armed groups, as well as by frequent flooding, the resurgence of epidemics such as Ebola, cholera, and COVID-19, and lack of basic infrastructure.

Access to people of concern to UNHCR residing in areas of North and South Kivu Provinces was difficult due to the increased activities of armed groups, as well as inter-communal conflicts. In Ituri, Haut Uele, and Bas Uele Provinces, where a range of armed groups are present, rule of law was weak or absent. In Tanganyika, Lomami, Lualaba and Upper Katanga provinces, conflicts between the Twa and Luba populations fueled tensions and displacement. The provinces of Kasai, Kasai-Central and Kasai-Oriental are still recovering from the Kamwuna N'sapu crisis with return movements from Angola.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR adapted its programming to continue ensuring protection and assistance to the people under its mandate, for instance by reinforcing the use of cash assitance through mobile money in order to reduce the risks of physical contact and to respect the preventive measures against COVID-19.

Population trends

The Democratic Republic of the Congo hosted 5.2 million IDPs in 2020, the largest IDP population in Africa.

COVID-19 reduced the number of new arrivals with only 3,660 people registered in 2020 compared to 11,155 registered in 2019 and 15,968 in 2018. UNHCR and partners supported the voluntary repatriation of 4,934 refugees (5,370 in 2019) to the Central African Republic (2,061), Burundi (1,946), Rwanda (922), and Congo (5), and conducted biometric registration and verification exercises in several provinces.

By the end of 2020, the refugee population stood at 490,243, with the largest decrease observed among refugees from South Sudan. This population dropped by 33,962 or 38% following the conclusion of the verification exercise. More than half of the overall refugee population are under 18 years old; 171,052 (35%) are between 18-59 years old; and 11,823 (2%) are 60 years old or over.   

The number of refugees from the Central African Republic increased by 2,497 people to 173,731 in 2020 and it is expected to significantly increase in 2021 due to the worsening political and security situation there.

Out of an expected 50,000 returnees, only 344 returned home to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Angola (322), South Africa, Namibia, and Côte d’Ivoire.

The legal and administrative management of Congolese nationality continues to create a risk of statelessness. No administrative census has been carried out since 1984 and there is no available data on the number of stateless persons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Key achievements

  • 739,471 people were reached through community awareness-raising campaigns and engaged in community dialogues for peaceful coexistence and the prevention of COVID-19.
  • 2,046 Burundian, Central African and South Sudanese refugees received shelter support.
  • 18,671 Burundian, Central African and South Sudanese refugees received production kits or inputs for agriculture/livestock/fisheries activities.
  • 377 small business associations were formed/supported to benefit the refugee population.
  • 1,652 decisions of administrative or judicial bodies were issued leading to the re-appropriation of land, housing, property or documentation by IDPs.

Unmet needs

  • Delays and bureaucratic bottlenecks in the processing of refugee identity documents within the first six months of arrival (as guaranteed by the Refugee Law) were reported throughout the year. To address these delays, the Office successfully advocated for the decentralization of the eligibility commission to the provincial level, to ensure more rapid case processing.
  • UNHCR’s L3 emergency declaration for Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu Provinces, mobilized additional resources to address major protection risks, inadequate shelter, increase access to basic services and support to the most vulnerable. Until its expiration in August 2020, the needs remained significant and the increase in displaced people brought a commensurate need for shelter and additional amenities.
  • In the northwest of the country, which primarily hosts Central African refugees, UNHCR required significant investments to live up to its standards and commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework and support the National Strategic Development Plan. The health sector was hit hardest with, for instance, nutritional supplements for patients with chronic diseases not provided, leaving them in a precarious state.
  • Across the country, less than half of identified persons at heightened risk received assistance. In Kalemie, Tanganyika Province for instance, only 170 out of 680 persons with specific needs were supported.
  • Gender-based violence was not adequately addressed due to underfunding. Only 25% of survivors received medical attention, 15% legal aid, and 0.5% livelihoods support. 

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

  • Over 24,300 refugees, IDPs, returnees and host community members benefited from awareness-raising sessions on peaceful coexistence. These were conducted in host and return areas in Tanganyika Province. Messages on peace recorded and broadcasted over partner community radio stations reached an estimated 739,000 listeners.
  • In the province of Kasai, 322 Congolese returnees from Angola were assisted to return. All received one-off cash assistance from UNHCR.

Working environment

Presidential elections took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the end of 2018 and a new government was formed in August 2019. DRC hosts some 538,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Rwanda and South Sudan. Furthermore, there are approximately 4 million IDPs and more than one million Congolese returnees. Since June 2019, a flare-up of generalized violence has led to new large-scale displacement in eastern DRC. Humanitarian response is challenged by limited physical access, insecurity and Ebola outbreak. The forced return of some 350,000 Congolese migrants from Angola in October 2018 has complicated the situation even further. The risk of statelessness remains high for certain populations, challenged by weak civil registration systems.
UNHCR is working closely with relevant governments on facilitated voluntary repatriation to various parts of DRC. Operations will commence in 2019 for refugees returning from Zambia, the Republic of Congo and Angola. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people will need support with the acquisition of national passports and visas.
Operational engagement by national and international development experts in a number of sectors serving multiple populations are expected to increase, in line with the CRRF. This includes work with UNDP in local governance support and access to justice; UNDP and UN Pol in community oriented policing (together with other key MONUSCO sections, the ICRC and UNICEF) and civilian character of asylum; UNFPA and UNDP on SGBV prevention and response; UNICEF on education; UNFPA on the inclusion of statelessness in a planned national census, and with UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank Group on civil registration. UNHCR and UNDP are co-chairs of a humanitarian-development-peace nexus pilot in North Kivu focusing on areas where solutions including both local settlement of IDPs and the return of both IDPs and refugees could be possible going forward. UNHCR will pursue to broaden the donor base notably through private sector partnerships.

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Preserving equal and unhindered access to territorial asylum and international protection, while promoting the full enjoyment of rights, and maintaining the civilian character of asylum;
  • Improving the protection and solutions environment through stronger links to developing national systems and services through development and government partners, including police and justice, health and education, land management and others necessary for community-based responses, self-reliance in all sectors, and progression towards the full enjoyment of all rights;
  • Achieving minimum standards in the provision of multi-sectoral assistance to refugees and host communities with a view to anchoring the response in government systems, development plans, multiyear strategies, and regional protection frameworks and policies – paying particular attention to the needs of children and women;
  • Promoting social cohesion and peaceful co-existence between refugees and host communities through the implementation of targeted self-reliance and resilience programmes and respect for the natural environment;
  • Fostering economic self-reliance and durable solutions for refugees and host communities by expanding the use of cash assistance in the short term, reducing dependency on humanitarian aid, and promoting peace and development in line with national and provincial plans. Among other approaches, this will require a more formal approach to access to land, as well as collaboration with expert actors on improved market value chains.
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2021
    United States of America

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  • 24-NOV-2021
  • Germany
  • 23-NOV-2021
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  • 22-NOV-2021
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  • 18-NOV-2021

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  • 17-NOV-2021

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  • Germany
  • 15-NOV-2021
    United Arab Emirates

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  • 12-NOV-2021
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  • 09-NOV-2021
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