29 November 2012

Zambia: Five Hundred and Eighty Congolese Refugees in the Country Now

Photo: UNHCR
File Photo:Refugees

ABOUT 580 Congolese nationals, who include 409 children, have entered the country through Nchelenge in Luapula Province since last week.

Last week, M23 rebels seized the eastern city of Goma but after intervention from the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Jean-Marie Runiga-led forces have started withdrawing.

By yesterday, there were 582 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) nationals at Kilwa Island in Nchelenge where authorities fear a possible outbreak of diseases such as cholera.

District Commissioner Joseph Chisakula confirmed that the number had risen from about 400 at the weekend to 582 asylum seekers.

Mr Chisakula said the Congolese were fleeing from Ngongwe, Chankalamo, Katanda, Kafwimbe, Tembe-Tembe, Ketunya and Musesha villages in DRC.

They are camped at Kabeke Village which has two adults and six children, Chinsamba Village with 13 adults and 36 children while Bwaya Village has 148 children and 62 adults.

Chisukulu Village has hosted 42 adults and 132 children while Kapolo Village has 64 adults and 82 children.

"We have been to the place since the problem started and I can tell you that the situation is really bad.

"Security, immigration and health personnel are on the ground to ensure that the situation does not get out of hand," he said.

Mr Chisakula said the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has been approached to help with food, accommodation and other logistics.

He said his administration had supplied 11 by 50 kilogramme bags of mealie-meal, 25 litres of cooking oil and four kilogrammes of salt.

"This is only enough to prepare porridge for them as we await more supplies from relevant authorities. It is pathetic," he said.

Mr Chisakula said the situation was further compounded by reports that diarrhoea was common among the Congolese.

"We have strong fear that cholera may break out because of the rain and the living conditions in the camps. So far, we are only encouraging them to dig shallow pit-latrines and rubbish pits," he said.

The Congolese have camped in classrooms and churches in the villages in Nchelenge.

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