Humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has hailed Malawians for being generous towards Mozambican refugees who have fled tensions and violence in their country.
Speaking on the relations between villagers and refugees at Kapise Village in Mwanza, (MSF) field coordinator in Kapise, Whitney Ward, said Malawians in the village have been generous even though there are not enough resources to support the growing population
“The host community of Kapise village has been very generous and hospitable, but the strain put on them by the new arrivals raises concerns of emerging tensions, especially around access to water,” she said.
Ward however said the tensions will be understandable since over 5,800 people from 1,000 families are living in a village that had about 150 families, a situation she described as unsustainable.
She also spoke on the harsh living conditions faced within the camps, saying she had never seen such levels of overcrowding at all places she has worked.
“As people streamed in from Mozambique they settled where they could, building makeshift shelters from foraged wood and grass.
“We’re talking about hundreds of little shelters crammed on top of each other, where many children run around, people cook on stoves. As the rainy season failed till recently, the camp was usually very dry and it was a serious fire hazard,” she said.
Risk of diseases
Overcrowding has led to lack of sanitation and there is also a threat of Malaria within the camp, a situation that has caused serious concern.
“Half of the consultations in the MSF clinic are linked to malaria cases: in the past week alone we’ve treated 388 malaria patients. People’s vulnerabilities are immense, but we’ve been quite lucky so far that no contagious disease has affected the camp.
“The overcrowding and lack of sanitation make it a serious risk. For example, whereas the respect of minimum humanitarian conditions would require at least 225 latrines for the 5,500 people currently in the camp, there are only 14 in working order. But even though the need is large, considering the scarcity of land it would be extremely difficult to build an appropriate number,” said Ward.
Call for assistance
MSF has since asked for humanitarian assistance for the thousands of refugees and has also called on the Malawi government and international organizations to acknowledge that the refugees need to be housed at another camp.
Ward said the refugees should be moved to a place that will “ease the overcrowding, provide adequate resources as well as guarantee access and efficient deployment of aid.”