In October 2009, nearly 115,000 people fled violence in the Equateur province of northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo. They crossed the river Oubangui and found refuge in Likouala, on the other side of the border in the Republic of the Congo.
The country called for international assistance with the refugees from DR Congo. Brazil recently responded by donating 200 tonnes of maize, at a cost of approximately $200,000 US dollars. Paulo A.V. Wolowski is the Brazilian ambassador to the Republic of the Congo. He announced, “Through this donation, we want to relieve the suffering of the many refugees in Likouala. Brazil will continue its efforts for these populations in distress.”
Residents of the department of Likouala have received assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross as they struggle to cope with the influx of refugees. Bernard Metraux is head of the Red Cross mission in Congo. He says, “Residents of the region made a remarkable effort to welcome their brothers from the other bank of the Oubangi River.”
The maize was obtained by the World Food Programme (WFP), which purchased it from farmers in the Congo’s southern department of Bouenza. It is ready and waiting to be transported north to Likouala. Mr. Wolowski praised the efforts of WFP and local maize farmers. “It is the first time in the Congo,” he said, “that sufficient maize could be grown in Bouenza for this purpose. This has helped to increase farmers’ incomes.”
June 20 was the 11th World Refugee Day. Mahamat Ali is head of the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. He praised the hospitality of the Congolese people and government, who have always agreed to host foreigners fleeing violence in their countries.
Brazil joins countries such as the USA, Sweden, Canada and France in donating emergency food aid through the WFP. The former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was recently awarded the 2011 World Food Prize for his efforts in alleviating hunger and poverty in Brazil.