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Fears of refugee influx from DRC, Angola

Zambia is preparing for an influx of refugees should the fighting in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) intensify.

The UNHCR office in Lusaka told IRIN on Thursday that contingency plans were now in place for an influx of 150,000 refugees from DRC. “We are on our guard in the event of a crisis in the border area, and we have already trained local staff in Zambia to help cope with an influx,” a UNHCR official said. Of particular concern, was that fighting could force people to flee from the southern DRC city of Lubumbashi which lies just 40 km from the Zambian border.

UNHCR has shipped non-food relief supplies to cater for an immediate influx of 5,000 people from DRC and has further emergency relief supplies at hand in neighbouring countries should the need the need arise.

There are already an estimated 167,000 refugees from neighbouring nations in Zambia. Most of them were from Angola, but others had also fled from DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.

A total of 30,438 were currently housed in the Meheba refugee settlement in North-Western Province, with 4,051 at the Mayukwayukwa camp in in Western Province, 13,826 in urban areas, while the majority of some 120,000 Angolans were settled along the border.

Zambian government policy stipulates that as far as possible, all refugees should live in designated settlements like Meheba and Mayukwayukwa, unless they have the means to sustain themselves in urban areas. Both settlements have thus been designated as farming settlements, and according to the UNHCR, both function well with the refugees largely able to cope for themselves offsetting the costs of humantarian aid.

“This policy has worked well and most residents in the settlements not only grow their own food, but also sell some of their produceon the market,” a UNHCR spokesman said. “But with the arrival of increasing numbers of refugees with an urban background in recent years, new programmes were designed, such as skills training or small business assistance so that non-agricultural income opportunities can be provided.”

All refugee aid and protection in Zambia is closely coordinated with the government’s refugee commission, and some NGO partners which receive funding from UNHCR. These include the Lutheran World Federation/Zambia Christian Refugee Service, Africare, the Zambia Red Cross Society and YMCA. Others assisting refugees in Zambia are the jesuit Refugee Services, CARE, and the japaneseb Association to Aid Refugees.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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