January 18, 2002

Rise in refugees for Zambia brings cut in food rations

Zambia last year took in so many refugees from wars in neighbouring countries that aid officials had to slash their food allowances, leading to increased malnutrition, a UN official said Friday, January 18, warning of an even bigger influx to come.

Martine Bucumi, deputy resident representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the southern African country, said Zambia took in some 40,000 people, notably from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a result of the influx and insufficient resources, the UNHCR and its partners had to halve food rations to the refugees, she said. "This has resulted in an increase in cases of malnutrition, especially among newly-arrived refugees," Bucumi added. "The number of new refugee arrivals into Zambia is expected to swell in 2002 if the situation in Angola and DRC does not improve," she added. Millions of people have been forced from their homes as a result of the civil war in neighbouring Angola, which has raged continuously since the country became independent from Portugal in 1975. The latest of a series of wars in in Zambia's northern neighbour, the DRC, erupted in 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda invaded the east of the counry to back rebels against the government. That conflict has killed an estimated 2.5 million people and sent yet more refugees fleeing from the country.

Zambia shelters more than 250,000 refugees, a record in southern Africa. Bucumi Friday appealed to the Zambian government to grant citizenship to refugees who have lived in the country for more than 30 years. (THE NAMIBIAN)

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