DR Congo

Zambia: Refugee influx situation report No. 4

Situation Report
Originally published

Appeal no. 11/99
Period covered: 1 - 30 November 1999
With the ongoing but sporadic nature of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), refugees are likely to continue to arrive in Zambia in limited numbers, and the Zambian Red Cross, with support from the Federation and UNHCR (as lead UN agency), are updating contingency plans to ensure that the appropriate response capacity exists. Meanwhile, with adequate funding of the emergency appeal, basic assistance to refugees is being effectively delivered.

The context

The cease-fire agreement signed by the parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July, 1999 is increasingly fragile, with frequent breaches of the peace accord and with the timetable for implementation as well as the deployment of the UN Observer Mission, running behind schedule, the agreement is under threat.

As a result of fresh fighting between the DRC soldiers backed by Allied States from within the region and the rebel factions supported by Uganda and Rwanda, there is an increase in the number of new arrivals at Mwange Camp. The camp population as at 30 November stood at 16,602 - a total of 795 new refugees having been received mostly through Nsumbu, near Mpulungu Harbour, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

With the current increased influx, the Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS) with the support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has worked tirelessly to both provide assistance and to improve its service delivery, as well as to other ZRCS programmes.

Latest Events

The political, social and military situation in the DRC, as reported in the last six months, still remains unchanged. Despite the resolution to withdraw all foreign troops from the DRC, it is reported that the foreign troops are still actively involved.

In the face of reported fresh fighting in the DRC, the first 15 Joint Military Commission (JMC) investigators arrived in the DRC to start the implementation of the cease fire agreement. Pledges from United States Government and Japan Government to inject financial support are encouraging indications.

In another development, the fighting in Angola has intensified and more than 4,500 refugees are reported to have crossed into the western part of Zambia and an unspecified number into Namibia.

The total camp population now stands at 16,602, broken down as follows:

Children (5-17 yrs)
Children (0-5 yrs)

Red Cross and Red Crescent Action

During the period under review, the Zambian Red Cross Society (ZRCS) and International Federation continued assisting the refugee community both in Kaputa and Mwange Camp in Mporokoso. In Kaputa, where refugees continue trickling in, the ZRCS and Federation have continued assuming the responsibility for all aspects of refugee assistance, with the UNHCR maintaining a low level presence. With the take over of the water and sanitation sector from Oxfam-GB in the middle of October, the ZRCS and Federation is now fully responsible for all core sectors of refugee assistance in Mporokoso-Mwange camp. The other sectors include health, food and non-food distribution.

In the social services sector the ZRCS, in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross, is providing tracing services to separated family members within the refugee population. Among these, 45 unaccompanied minors were identified and registered for onward transmission to the ICRC data bank for active tracing. This service is highly appreciated by the refugees.

Meanwhile, a volunteers' training session was held both in Mporokoso and Kaputa in order to acquaint the Red Cross volunteers in the refugee project and those in potential entry points with new methods of efficient and effective humanitarian service delivery. This involved training in emergency health, emergency water and sanitation, hygiene in high populated areas, conducting needs assessments and reporting methods. Thirty volunteers were trained from each district. The trained volunteers, whose ages range from 20 years and above, were from various professional backgrounds.

Planning is underway to introduce and field test the SPHERE Project, which establishes universal minimum standards in the key areas of refugee assistance, namely; shelter and site planning, wat/san, nutrition, health services, food aid. It is anticipated that the SPHERE standards will be useful as a basis for measuring performance and being accountable to the beneficiaries and to other stakeholders, including the donors.

Meanwhile the ZRCS has intensified its activities in the other programmes, including the Street Kids Project, nutrition rehabilitation, HIV/AIDS counselling, first aid provision and training, and watsan activities. The National Society has embarked on plans to build a National First Aid Training Centre in Lusaka, a project that is being funded by the Beit Trust.

Major Achievements

Food and Non-food Distribution:

Mwange Camp - Mporokoso

The 2-week general food distributions have continued with the maximum involvement of the beneficiaries as scoopers and loaders. New arrivals from entry points and the transit centre receive sufficient rations to last until the next general food distribution date. The World Food Programme (WFP) recommended ration has not changed but plans are under way to have the food basket reviewed. The distribution of maize meal will soon be replaced by maize grain. Hammer mills have already been put in place by WFP to facilitate this transition with the goal to encourage refugee independence. Distribution of non-food items is done for new arrivals after verification of needed items that were not received at the transit centre and entry points. 250 grams of soap is distributed to every refugee every month.

Health Sector:

Mwange Camp - Mporokoso

The general health situation has continued to be stable with both the crude mortality rate at 0.17/10000/day and under 5 mortality rate at 0.43/10000/day, both within the normal limits. The morbidity pattern remained the same but indicating a decline in the percentage of new cases presenting with malaria (21.2%), RTI (18.5%) and diarrhoea diseases (8.4%). Intestinal worm infection is at 7.1%. There has been a marked reduction in the number of refugees re-attending the clinic from 899 in October to 67 in November - a 92.5% reduction. On the other hand, the number of new cases increased to 2,847 compared to October at 2,555. In the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services, a total of 422 new children attended the under 5 clinic while 110 new women have been registered for antenatal clinic. The number of new acceptors for family planning has now gone up to 185 bringing the total number of those practising contraception to 193.

Thirty Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA's) were trained as a means of reducing the still birth rate in the camp (still births were reported to be high during the month of September). In addition (2) Laboratory Assistants were trained at Mporokoso Hospital in preparation for the proposed basic diagnostic laboratory in the camp.

Cholera awareness among refugees was created through Home Visitors as part of a cholera alert. One case of cholera was reported as having been admitted to Mporokoso Hospital from a village bordering Kaputa District.

The health situation at Kaputa transit centre has been stable and no mortality reported. The reported cholera situation in Kaputa District has almost been brought under control with no cases of cholera reported at the camp.

A nutritional survey carried out at Mwange Camp among the 6-59 months age group revealed very low levels of both severe and global malnutrition at 0.64% and 3.63% respectively. This implies that the general nutritional status of children has improved since the last survey was done by MSF in May/1999 when the global malnutrition rate was estimated at 9 %.

Water and Sanitation:

Mwange Camp

  • Water Supply:
The water supply at Mwange Camp has greatly improved with the drilling of bore holes in and around the camp. 10 bore holes were successfully drilled in the camp and 4 were drilled in the surrounding villages. Of the 10 bore holes in the camp, 9 have been installed with Afridev hand pumps while one at the clinic has a submersible pump. The water supply is now at 18.2 litres per capita.
  • Sanitation:
A cumulative total of 1,976 pit latrines have been constructed in the camp raising the family pit latrine coverage to 80%. The refugee community has continued with the construction of family latrines. The only drawback in the construction of pit latrines is the lack of materials like plastic sheeting. Instead, grass has been used as a temporary measure after being fetched from far away. Distribution of San Plat slabs has continued.

The vector control team disinfected all the refuse pits in the camp and training of vector control personnel was carried out. During the same period a team of four Red Cross Watsan Technicians from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia visited Mwange camp for a study tour organised and funded by the Harare Regional Delegation.

The water and sanitation facilities in Kaputa are currently adequate for the number of refugees arriving at the transit centre. The centre has three water tanks but only one is being utilised. MSF-Holland donated an additional water bladder to be used at the transit centre.


85 Red Cross Messages were collected from the refugee community at Mwange destined for different countries. 23 messages were received from various countries destined for the refugees in Mwange. The registration of unaccompanied minors continues for all new arrivals.

Outstanding Needs

There is a need for continued capacity building within the ZRCS to ensure that this relief operation is used as an opportunity to strengthen the Society's ability to respond to similar disasters in the future.

External Relations - Government/UN/NGOs/Media

The relationship with other agencies has continued to be satisfactory both at the field and Lusaka level. Consultations on how best to provide services to the beneficiaries continue, with Inter Agency Coordination meetings taking place every 2 weeks at both the Lusaka and field level.


See Annex 1 for details.

Bekele Geleta
Africa Department

Peter Rees-Gildea
Operations Funding and
Reporting Department