MWANZA (Malawi NewsNow) –The number of Mozambican nationals who are seeking asylum in the village of Kapise, in border district of Mwanza just 100km south of the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, over 5 800 people from more than 1000 families have settled in a camp that initially held just 150 families, raising concerns over a continued humanitarian crisis due to overcrowded camps..
A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report titled, ‘Inter Agency Operational Update- Malawi,’ of 12 February 2016 indicated that the number of Mozambican nationals seeking asylum has increased by 778.5 percent from 700 to 5450.
“The number of new arrivals has increased again during the first week of December 2015 settling mainly in and around Kapise II. As of 12 February 2016, Kapise village was reportedly holding over 5,450 new arrivals from Mozambique,” reads part of the report.
It further indicates that out of the 5,450 asylum seekers, 892 are babies under 4 years 1,974 are women, 148 are the elderly aged over 60 and the majority of them are young people of between 18 to 59 years.
The report also says UNHCR and the Ministry of gender, children, disability and social welfare with support from UNICEF are currently identifying and assessing children without parents or relatives.
On heath, humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has a permanent presence in the region, providing healthcare services and supporting the ministry of health in seeing to those in need.
MSF Field Co-ordinator Whitney Ward spoke on the harsh living conditions faced within the camps, saying she had never seen such levels of overcrowding.
“We’re talking about hundreds of little shelters crammed on top of each other, where many children run around, people cook on stoves. As the rainy season failed till recently, the camp was usually very dry and it was a serious fire hazard,” said Ward.
With the looming fear of a cholera outbreak, MSF has taken action in drilling two boreholes, with additional drilling in the pipeline.
“The only regular water stream has dried out and people, usually women, now have to wait 2.5 hours on average to fill their jerrycans of water. Each person has on average 8 litres of water a day, barely enough to drink and cook and well below the minimum 15 to 20 litres recommended as a humanitarian minimum in emergency settings,” Ward stated.
Additional locations are currently being sought out to house the refugees to allow for minimum living standards and easier access to humanitarian aid.
MSF has since sent an urgent call to the government of Malawi, as well as the international community, to recognise that the camp needs to be moved to meet minimal emergency levels of services, as internationally agreed.
No government intervention, nor that of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), had taken effect thus far.