Malawi continues to offer refuge to stranded Mozambican nationals who are fleeing conflict in their country.
The Mozambicans are staying at the newly established Kapise ll camp in Mwanza district as fighting has intensified in their country’s Tete Province.
The current trickling in of refugees follows another pour in of more than 700 people into Malawi in July after RENAMO fighters had carried out two attacks in Tete province, and refugees say they continue to flee atrocities and killings by militias.
However, Kapise II is already home to more than 2,500 refugees and the current situation will likely worsen living conditions at the camp.
According to media reports, the refugees are facing difficult weather conditions due to lack of shelter and they need food, water, sanitation, and social support.
Some of that social support will have to be provided by villagers who live near the camp but they are worried about the refugee influx.
“We are staying with these people in the village, yes, but we are living in fear because we believe that in time they will completely run out of food, they will start stealing from us in our homes,” says William Mitiwe, the headman at Kapise ll village.
The villagers also fear some of the refugees might have run with weapons that can be used against them.
Mozambican authorities reportedly said those fleeing into Malawi are either thugs or lazy people. But refugee Jaleo Bernaldo denies this.
“They cannot say we are lazy people who are leaving Mozambique for free things at a refugee camp in Malawi. Here at the camp there are all sorts of people, including children, adults and the aged,” says Bernaldo. “Do they mean they are the ones who have been feeding us all this time?”
Malawi government authorities say they are trying to work with their Mozambican counterparts on how best to address the issue.
Meanwhile, international bodies are helping out. Doctors Without Borders is providing medical help.
The United Nations has provided some tents and has established a children’s counselling centre, where children also sing songs to help relieve them of trauma due to running away from home.
Malawi previously hosted Mozambicans who fled a 16-year civil war between 1977 and 1992. The current conflict between government soldiers and opposition RENAMO forces followed a disputed election early last year.