Angola + 1 more

Zambia: Refugee airlift

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JOHANNESBURG, 23 January (IRIN) - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, on Monday visited the town of Kalabo in Zambia where thousands of Angolan refugees have been stranded on the western bank of the Zambesi River by rising flood waters.
Her visit coincided with a joint air relief operation by UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) aimed at ensuring food deliveries and transporting the refugees to safer camps away from the Angolan border, UNHCR spokesman Dominic Bartsch told IRIN. The emergency operation which started on Sunday was briefly suspended pending the arrival of a fuel truck. The airlift resumed on Monday.

He said the estimated 5,000 refugees in the Kalabo area would be taken inland to the Majukwajukwa refugee camp. Bartsch said the agency hoped to airlift about 400 refugees a day. Further south, 7,500 people camped near the Sinjembela border town would be moved to a new camp near Sioma. The transfer of the Sinjembela refugees, however, cannot be conducted by air for lack of a landing field in the area, he said.

Fighting across the border between Angolan government forces and UNITA rebels in recent weeks has seen an influx of some 21,000 refugees into Zambia where the total number of Angolans stands at around 160,000.

Ogata, who arrived in Zambia on Sunday, said she agreed with African leaders that the international community was paying less attention to refugees in Africa than in other parts of the world. "But it is not for UNHCR alone to change the situation," she told reporters. "It is up to the whole international community and the industrialised countries".

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