Efforts by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to repatriate Angolans from Namibia get underway this week with 200 refugees set to return home on Thursday.
"The 200 are among the 840 refugees who are to be repatriated in the Cunene province in the next few weeks", UNHCR spokesperson in Angola, Fernando Mendes, told IRIN on Monday.
Once the 840 have been resettled in Cunene in southern Angola, UNHCR will help a further 2,659 Angolans to go home to Cuando Cubango province, which also shares a border with Namibia. "After that we will resettle 3,497 Angolans from Namibia in the other provinces," Mendes said.
There are an estimated total of 12,000 Angolan refugees in Namibia, of which UNHCR hopes to repatriate at least 10,000 this year. But the World Food Programme (WFP) in Angola has warned that a funding crisis has forced it to limit rations for repatriated Angolans.
WFP indicated last week that it would need a minimum of US $136 million to feed nearly 1.4 million returnees and people scheduled for repatriation in 2004.
"After years of exile, tens of thousands of Angolan refugees in Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are set to endure further hardships once they return home, due to an acute funding shortage," the agency said in a statement.
"We are currently unable to provide cereals and have not been able to provide the full food basket to those who have already returned. Those who return from Namibia will receive pulses, oil and salt," said WFP spokesperson in Angola, Manuel Cristovao.
"Besides the Angolans from Namibia, about 40,000 refugees in Zambia and 19,000 in the DRC are also expected to return this year. We have appealed for cash donations, which will help us to buy the food regionally."
On Tuesday the 200 Angolans from Namibia will be provided with food rations for three days and travel by road from the Osire camp, 250 km north of the Namibian capital, Windhoek, to Namakunde in Cunene, said Hesdy Radhling, the UNHCR country representative in Namibia.
About 4,500 refugees were voluntarily repatriated by UNHCR to Angola last year in vehicle convoys and by raft across the Kavango river.
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