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Angola: heavy fighting, thousands flee

Briefing notes

Angola: heavy fighting, thousands flee

10 December 1999

More than 2,000 refugees from Angola arrived in Zambia over the last four days following heavy fighting between UNITA and the Angolan army in the area around Lumbala N'Guimbe in Angola's Moxico province. The largest population of new arrivals is currently concentrated in Kalabo, on the western side of the Zambezi plains, where 1,450 were recorded as of yesterday morning, 9 December. This number includes some 200 military personnel from the Angolan army (FAA) who are presently being disarmed by Zambian security personnel.

There are indications that the confrontation has intensified along the entire border between Zambia and Angola, raising the possibility of more refugees into Zambia

Food and non-food supplies have been dispatched the region and UNHCR staff have been deployed to Meheba, in Western province, to co-ordinate the relief effort.

The main operational concern is availability of transport to ensure that refugees can be transferred quickly from transit locations to the refugee camps of Mayukwayukwa and Meheba. Logistical difficulties will further compound the operation as the Zambezi plains are beginning to flood, rendering Kalabo inaccessible by road. Possibilities of hiring boats are being assessed.

Zambia has hosted Angolan refugees for decades. More than 32,000 were already accommodated in Meheba and Mayukwayukwa, which is one of the oldest refugee settlements in Africa.