ZAMBIA: WFP Press Release on DRC Refugee Influx, 4/8/99

ZAMBIA: WFP Press Release on DRC Refugee Influx, 4/8/99


Lusaka, April 8, 1999 - The UN World Food Programme in Zambia today said that food aid needs to be quickly mobilised and delivered to the northern border area in order to feed a growing number of refugees crossing over from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The latest figures indicate that at least 20,000 refugees have crossed from DRC into the district of Kaputa since 5 March, with more expected to arrive as a result of continual heavy fighting between the DRC government and rebels.

A recent WFP/USAID mission to Kaputa area verified that the flow of people has not abated, with the numbers reaching as many as 500 people reaching Kaputa on some days.

"At this rate, we could easily see another 15,000 people arriving within a month," said Techeste Zergaber, WFP Country Director in Zambia. "WFP has been able to borrow food from other programs to feed the refugees, but those supplies are rapidly becoming exhausted.

"We will soon be launching an appeal to donors to help us respond to this latest crisis."

The nutritional condition of the refugees is currently not cause for concern, said Zergaber, apart from some emaciation due to the long distances travelled. It was recommended, however, that a nutritional survey be quickly undertaken to identify any special needs of women and children, who form at least 60 per cent of the population and are typically the most vulnerable.

Some cases of measles have also been reported, and outbreaks of malaria, diarrhoea and cholera are feared as the area is mosquito-infested and clean water supplies are problematic. UNICEF, through the Ministry of Health, has dispatched a vaccination team to contain the spread of cholera.

The arrival of the refugees, especially those who have spontaneously settled in Zambian villages, is putting a significant strain on the community. People living in the area are still recovering from severe food shortages caused by heavy flooding in the area in 1997/98.

WFP has managed to borrow some relief commodities from the flood victim programme to meet the immediate food needs of the refugees. But the agency warned that borrowings needed to be quickly reimbursed with new donations in order to avoid potential resentment from the host population.

The refugees are mostly coming from the Kalemie, Moba and Pepa areas of eastern DRC. They share close ethnic and social ties with the Zambian people living in Kaputa district. Some of the men are reportedly crossing back and forth across the border in an attempt to salvage the upcoming harvest before a feared rebel advance engulfs their homes.

Some 700 soldiers have been identified within the group of refugees, however the group is being separated and is not entitled to WFP food supplies. According to UNHCR sources, about 500 of the soldiers have been repatriated by the Government to DRC.

For more information contact:

Techeste Zergaber Brenda Barton WFP Country Director WFP Regional Information Officer Tel: 260-1-254332 Tel: 254-2-622594

Date: Thu, 08 Apr 1999 10:33:58 +0000 From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: ZAMBIA: WFP press release on DRC refugee influx [19990408]

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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