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Zambia: Angolan arrivals increasing

Briefing notes

Zambia: Angolan arrivals increasing

11 January 2000

The number of Angolan refugees arriving in Western Zambia has swelled significantly in the last week following intensified fighting in Angola's Cuando-Cubango province between UNITA rebels and Angolan government forces.

Since January 1, over 7,500 Angolan refugees have arrived in Sijembela, some 5 km from the Angolan/Zambian border. The refugees, mainly women and children, arrived on foot from the Luiana and Jamba areas of Angola. They are in poor health with several cases of diarrhoea, malaria and skin diseases. Some refugees have gunshot wounds.

The new arrivals are currently being sheltered in schools and other government facilities in the remote and difficult-to-access area, about 250 km from the south-western town of Senanga. UNHCR is immediately opening a transit centre in Sijembela pending the transfer of the more than 7,000 refugees to Mayukwayukwa camp, already home to over 6,000 refugees, mainly from Angola.

The transfer to Mayukwayukwa may, however, be delayed for four-five months because of the rainy season, which has rendered the roads to the camp impassable. As a result, UNHCR is also considering opening a new camp to shelter the over 7,000 new arrivals in Sijembela and another 5,500 currently in Kalabo, north of Sijembela.

Since October when the fighting between Angolan government forces and UNITA rebels intensified, a total of 20,500 refugees have gone into neighbouring Zambia, which already hosts over 200,000 refugees from Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda and Somalia.