"Three days ago fighting erupted in Rivungo, but as of Monday night only 40 or 50 people had crossed into Shangombo," UNHCR spokesman Dominik Bartsch told IRIN.
However, humanitarian sources said there are contingency plans to cope with an influx of a further 15,000 refugees into Zambia's Western Province as a result of Angolan military operations across the border.
Bartsch said that UNHCR was "on alert" over a possible influx of refugees from around the UNITA-held area of Cazombo, further north. He said they could flee south into Zambia's Chavuma district or east into Zambezi. Since October last year, a total of 24,317 refugees have sort shelter in Zambia.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said at a meeting of the ruling party's Central Committee on Thursday that Angolan forces (FAA) are attempting to crush UNITA rear bases along the Zambian border. Unconfirmed news reports in Lusaka said the Zambian government has sent fresh troop reinforcements to the frontier region.
A diplomatic source in Lusaka told IRIN that Luanda's military strategy of striking at UNITA camps in Moxico and Cuando Cubango Provinces in southeastern Angola was disrupting supply routes and installations, but had not succeeded in "pacifying" the area. "UNITA have plenty of time to move out, so FAA is hitting empty bases. The government is not in a position to pacify the whole area, it's dense bush and scarcely populated and UNITA is a guerrilla army and know their way around," the source said.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has announced that it has managed to speed up the transportation of refugees stuck at Sinjembela on the western bank of the Zambezi river to a new camp 120 km inland away from the insecure border. Movement by truck through the difficult terrain has ironically improved with the rains, and "all going well, we should be able to move 1,700 people per week to a model camp at Nangweshi," Bartsch said. Some 10,000 refugees were scattered around the hamlet of Sinjembela. UNHCR has since managed to move around 2,500 to Nangweshi in recent weeks.
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