Angolan refugees: exodus intensifies
The arrival of new Angolan refugees in Zambia, Namibia and DRC continues to intensify. Zambia has witnessed sustained arrivals of about 500-1,000 Angolans per month for the past four months.
Last week, 288 more crossed into Zambia's North Western Province. The refugees, mostly women and children, were reported to be in poor condition. Some wore only tee-shirts and had eaten only wild fruit they were able to find during their journey from Angola. They are being transferred to Meheba, an extensive refugee settlement located near Solwezi in North-Western Province, where each family receives a plot of land. The settlement, with an area of 720 square kms, now hosts some 40,000 Angolan refugees, some of whom have been there since 1971. Zambia hosts 220,000 refugees in total, most of whom are from Angola. Renewed fighting in Angola has pushed 28,000 people to seek protection in Zambia in the last nine months.
In Namibia, more than 6,000 Angolans escaping civil war in the Cuando Cubango and Cunene Provinces have crossed the Kavango River into northern Namibia since last November. They arrive mostly at Rundu and Enama transit centres. Passage into Namibia is reportedly difficult for young men who are suspected of supporting UNITA, and UNHCR has to attend screening hearings held by the government of Namibia before the refugees can be accepted. The refugees are then transferred to Osire camp, which was established in 1992, and where the population has reached 12,000 and continues to rise. In July alone, 428 Angolan refugees were registered at Osire, about 250 km north of Windhoek. Some 10,000 refugees are also found in towns of the northern regions of Namibia, bringing the country total to 22,000 Angolan refugees.
Continuous arrivals of Angolans are also being registered in two areas of the DRC bordering Angola. An estimated 7,000 new Angolan refugees have arrived in Kahemba (Bandundu Province) in the past three months, fleeing fighting in Lunda Norte Province. The total number of refugees in the area is now estimated at 15,000. Many remain inaccessible, mainly because of damaged bridges and bad roads in the region. Local authorities have decided to regroup the refugees in a new site 42 km from Kahemba, due to fears of UNITA incursions along the border. Resources on the ground are lacking and many of the refugees are living in miserable conditions. Water, sanitation, medical and educational activities are urgently needed.
A recent mission led by UNHCR to the Bas-Congo region confirmed the presence of 20,000 Angolan refugees in Kilueka and Nkondo camps. Another estimated 20,000 are assisted in villages close to the border. A mass information campaign is underway to convince these refugees to regroup in the camps, where they can receive assistance and are also at less risk. An additional 47,000 Angolan refugees are found around Kisenge in Katanga Province, thus bringing the total number of assisted Angolan refugees in three DRC provinces to 102,000. There are believed to be as many as 38,000 more Angolan refugees who we are unable to reach in Bas-Congo and Bandundu Provinces.