Assistance increased to new wave of refugees fleeing Angolan civil war
MONGU, Zambia, Oct. 23 (UNHCR) - The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday it had increased assistance to several thousand Angolans who fled to Zambia's Western province last week following fresh fighting between government and UNITA rebel forces in Angola's Cuando Cubango province.
The agency also announced that it had transferred about half of the newly arrived 4,000 refugees away from the border to the Nangweshi refugee camp, about 140 kilometres inland. UNHCR said it was optimistic that the transfer of the remaining 2,000 refugees will be completed by the end of the week.
The refugees are supplied with food, blankets, jerry cans of water, and kitchen utensils. Those needing medical care are treated by UNHCR's partner African Humanitarian Action.
Nangweshi, in Zambia's Western province, is already hosting 15,700 Angolan refugees and cannot accommodate more, the agency said. UNHCR has built a temporary shelter just outside the main camp, but the facility is already housing some 1,300 refugees and will also be overflowing soon.
The 25-year-long conflict in Angola has traditionally flared up in the last months of the year, when the warring factions try to consolidate their positions before the start of the rainy season. Last month, for instance, more than 15,000 new arrivals were recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following fighting in Angola's northern Uíge Province.
Zambia has received an average of 1,000 Angolan refugees each month this year, according to the refugee agency. That figure climbed precipitously last week to about 3,500 during a five-day period as fighting intensified along the border. Zambia is already hosting more than 200,000 Angolan refugees, some of whom have been in the country for over thirty years.
But the influx of new arrivals has slowed down since the weekend, the agency reported. Nevertheless, UNHCR anticipates that refugees in groups of about 100 people will continue to arrive in Zambia, a figure that could rise sharply should larger, rebel-held towns such as Cilenga or Solongo, with populations of 20,000 and 10,000 people respectively, fall into the government's hands.
The refugee agency said negotiations with Zambian authorities regarding the installation of a new refugee camp near Nangweshi are well advanced, with an agreement possible in the coming days.
The camp will be capable of hosting 20,000 new refugees in Zambia's Western province. It would be situated on the eastern bank of the Zambezi River, in a dryer area than Nangweshi, which is inaccessible for at least three months each year due to heavy rains and flooding.