Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have started the relocation of Congolese refugees from the congested Kenani transit centre in Nchelenge District of Northern Province, to a newly opened permanent site, Mantapala Refugee Settlement, which is 40 kilometres away.

According to a joint statement released to the media on Saturday, The first convoy of buses to the newly designated refugee settlement carried 150 Congolese refugees, while several relocation convoys are expected to follow in the coming days, depending on weather conditions and on-going preparations on the ground in Mantapala in terms of health facilities, shelter water supply and other facilities.

“The road leading to Mantapala is generally in a poor state, but the Zambia National Service (ZNS) has repaired damaged portions of the main access road and is clearing the refugee site for the new settlement in readiness for the relocation.
Over the last five months, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have been crossing into Zambia through various entry points in the north, fleeing from conflict in Haute Katanga’s Pweto area and Moba, in Tanganyika Province. The majority of the refugees arriving through Chiengi border area, are hosted at Kenani, while those who cross through other entry points in Mpulungu, Nsumbu and Kaputa, are taken to two of the older settlements, Meheba and Mayukwayukwa – in the North West and West of the country, respectively,” read the statement.

“Kenani, which has reached its maximum holding capacity, is currently hosting over 14, 000 Congolese refugees, with an average of 100 new arrivals registered on a daily basis at Kenani Transit Centre. Mantapala Refugee Settlement has the capacity to host a population of up to 20, 000 refugees and members of the host community. UNHCR, working with the Government, sister UN agencies and other partners, are putting up facilities and will provide humanitarian assistance, using a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) model, which provides for the settlement of refugees alongside the host community to ensure that they share the facilities provided by humanitarian actors, development partners and the Government in the Refugee Settlement and the host areas.”

The UN refugee agency and government asked for financial support from cooperating partners.

“In order to enable the Government and the UNHCR to successfully develop the Settlement and relocate all the refugees from the Transit Centre, funding is a critical requirement. There is an urgent need to fund the provision of all the necessary services and the establishment of facilities at Mantapala whose estimated budget is above US$32, 279, 067. The Government and UNHCR would like to take this opportunity to express their gratitude to various donors who have pledged and provided funding for the work that has been done so far,” read the statement.

“We would like to reiterate our appeal to other donors and indeed the private sector to come forward to assist the Government during this emergency,” said Mr. Abdon Mawere, Commissioner for Refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs. When relocated and settled in the new Settlement the refugees will be able to engage in livelihood activities, such as farming, and will be put on a path to regain their dignity and become self-reliant.”