Pavarotti ferry helps refugees in Zambia stay afloat
KALONGOLA, Zambia, Nov 12 (UNHCR) - Thousands of refugees living across the Zambezi river in western Zambia can now be assured of a steady flow of assistance during the rainy season after the UN refugee agency handed over a ferry donated by friends of Maestro Luciano Pavarotti to the Zambian government.
On Wednesday, UNHCR's Representative in Zambia, Ahmed Gubartalla, handed the ferry over to Zambian officials in Kalongola, a major crossing point on the Zambezi river. The river separates Nangweshi refugee camp from the rest of western Zambia, with no bridge linking the two banks.
Prior to the ferry donation, there was only one ferry carrying supplies to the camp's 26,000 Angolan refugees and their host community between December and April, when the Zambezi river floods the plains. These supplies would stop if the ferry broke down.
The new ferry was funded by donations from friends of Italian Maestro Luciano Pavarotti on the occasion of his 2002 "Pavarotti and Friends" charity concert for Angolan refugee children. The ferry was named after his father, Fernando Pavarotti, who died a few days before the May 27 concert.
The ferry - which can carry up to 63 metric tons - was assembled in Kalongola and will be managed by Zambia's Ministry of Works and Supply on behalf of the refugees and their host community.
Maestro Pavarotti, a UN Messenger of Peace, has over the years helped the UN refugee agency to raise millions of dollars for refugees around the world.
"We are very happy to see this handover take off," said UNHCR's Gubartalla at Wednesday's ceremony. "It is a great example of how talent can be put to good use for the benefit of the less fortunate in the world. The humanitarian dimension in Maestro Pavarotti's work is of great support to the refugees. We are hopeful that the gesture will inspire other non-traditional donors to do the same."
Zambia's Western Province Deputy Minister Imasiku Namakando also thanked Maestro Pavarotti and said the ferry would be put to good use at the ceremony that was attended by the Zambian Minister of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary, the Commissioner for Refugees, the Italian Ambassador to Zambia, and traditional leaders from the area.
Maestro Pavarotti's donation was made to the refugees and their host community within the context of the Zambia Initiative Development Programme. The Zambia Initiative is a government-led plan to co-ordinate donors' efforts to reduce poverty, link relief and development assistance, and contribute to peace and stability in Zambia's refugee-hosting areas.