Maputo — The Malawian government has decided to re-open a refugee camp closed almost a decade ago, in order to cater for the current inflow of Mozambicans fleeing from clashes between government forces and gunmen of the rebel movement Renamo in the western province of Tete.
So far, the refugees have been accommodated in just one camp, at Kapise, about 100 kilometres south of the capital, Lilongwe.
According to a release from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), to data UNHCR staff have registered about 9,600 Mozambicans. Others are waiting to be registered and UNHCR puts the total at 11,500.
The Malawian government decision is to reopen the camp at Luwani, where it will supposedly be easier to provide basic services.
Whereas Kapisi is just five kilometers from the Mozambican border, Luwani is 65 kilometres inside Malawi.
Luwani was a refugee camp which accommodated Mozambicans who fled in large numbers across the border during the war of destabilisation that ended in 1992. It was not closed down until 2007.
The UNHCR notes that Luwani “has more than 160 hectares of space, including forest. Refugees will have better facilities and services there, including health, education, water and protection. And, importantly, it will be safer”.
The release adds that “UNHCR appreciates Malawi's generosity in hosting so many people. We also reiterate the importance of keeping doors open to people fleeing danger”.
Conditions in Kapisi are poor, despite the efforts by UN agencies and NGOs to open boreholes and provide food and health care.
Luwani will now become the main refugee camp, and UNHCR says that Kapisi will be used merely as a transit centre.
UNHCR says it is facing a shortfall in funding for its operations in Malawi. “We need 1.8 million US dollars to meet immediate needs, but more will be needed to cope with the growing number of arrivals”, warms the release.
It points out that, well before the Mozambicans started arriving, Malawi was already hosting some 25,000 refugees from the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. They are in the Dzaleka camp, about 50 kilometres from Lilongwe.
UNHCR notes that the food rations for people living in Dzaleka “have been cut to 50 per cent since October and resources to assist refugees are limited”.