- Sep 26, 2003Steady Stream of Asylum Seekers From Great Lakes
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
September 25, 2003
Posted to the web September 25, 2003
Malawi is still experiencing a constant stream of people seeking refuge
from the strife-torn Great Lakes region, Disaster Relief and
Preparedness Commissioner Lucius Chikuni told IRIN.
However, he said the country was well prepared for the steady stream of
people seeking asylum in Malawi.
"Between 1994 and 1997 we had 5,000 refugees, and it has just been a
steady increase over the years - and the main reason for that is the
fact that the strife in the Great lakes region has not subsided,"
He explained that there were two groups of people seeking refuge in
Malawi. "Firstly, we have the [officially registered] refugees - right
now there are 4,000 of them. And then there are 6,000 asylum seekers who
have not yet been granted refugee status - they are going through the
determination process, and that involves interviewing each individual
separately to establish whether indeed that person is running away [with
a] founded fear of persecution," he said.
"There's still a lot of fighting there in the DRC [Democratic Republic
of Congo]. Then, of course, we are also looking at the countries like
Burundi - there may be peace, but today or tomorrow, something erupts
again. So it's basically ... that people still feel insecure," Chikuni
Malawi itself has just come out of a food security crisis which saw
millions of its citizens dependent on international food aid to
The country staged a remarkable recovery this year, thanks largely to
good rains during the planting season, and government and aid agency
interventions in the form of inputs provision.
But the influx of refugees and asylum seekers has "not been a problem
at all", Chikuni said.
"The refugees are taken care of [by the] international community
through UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees], so the presence of
refugees in a country does not affect the economy of a country at all -
so the impact is not felt internally by the rest of the community in
Malawi," he noted.
The only negative was that "the environment tends to suffer, as they
have to cut down trees for firewood and other uses. But what we have
done with UNHCR is introduce afforestation programmes around the camp".
Chikuni said about "100 to 200 [asylum seekers] come in every month"
from the Great Lakes region.
Funding crisis: Millions face starvation
26 September 2003 12:38
By as early as next month, millions of people in the southern African
region will face "massive food shortages" owing to what could only be
described as a "funding crisis" in the World Food Programme (WFP), the
United Nations agency warned on Friday.
"The situation is incredibly serious," said James Morris, WFP executive
director and special envoy for Southern Africa.
"In Mozambique, rations for hundreds of thousands of people may have to
be cut, or they may get nothing at all unless our appeal receives an
immediate cash injection. It's already too late for food aid to arrive
from abroad to meet needs in October and November."
In July, the WFP appealed for US$308-million to fund some 540 000 tons
of food -- enough to feed 6,5-million people until June of next year in
Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Malawi.
It received only 24% of that amount. Today the agency has unmet needs
amounting to US$235-million.
According to Mike Huggins, WPF spokesperson for southern Africa, the
funding crisis was compounded by countries like Zimbabwe, which account
for two thirds of the WFP's appeal for southern Africa.
"The WFP's appeal for southern Africa is based on an assumption that
governments will meet commercial import targets. However, in Zimbabwe's
case, a severe lack of foreign exchange is clearly affecting the
country's ability to import food.
"This means that food aid needs may further increase between now and
the harvest in April 2004," Huggins said.
He said a memorandum of understanding, which was signed on Thursday by
the Zimbabwean government and the WFP's country director in Harare, was
expected to help facilitate the flow of food aid to millions of needy
However, given the current funding level, the entire region is expected
to experience food pipeline breaks by early next year, which will
coincide with the lean season when the general food deficit is the
And compounding all of these food shortage problems is of course
southern Africa's HIV/Aids epidemic.
"HIV/Aids and food shortages go hand in hand in this region," said Mike
Sackett, WFP regional director for Southern Africa.
"The best way of supporting people affected by the virus is to ensure
they are well nourished, but clearly this will not be the case for many
people over the coming months unless there's an immediate and sustained
response from donors."
The WFP, the world's largest humanitarian agency, has been carrying out
emergency feeding in the region since 2001. It reached its peak of
operations last year when 10,2-million people received WFP food aid.
Globally, the WFP fed 72-million people in 82 countries in 2002,
including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
Church leaders hit out at Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe's government has been strongly condemned by
church leaders in Zimbabwe.
A letter, signed by clergy from 59 Christian denominations, said the
government was no longer upholding justice and the rule of law.
"Any government that negates these principles forfeits its God-given
mandate to rule," the statement said.
They also called on the authorities to enter into Church-led talks with
the opposition to defuse tensions.
Three church bishops are currently trying to get the two parties
talking, but little progress has been reported.
"We therefore urge all parties concerned to treat the talks with
urgency," they said.
The statement, which came out of a meeting earlier this month, also
called for the repeal of what they said were draconian security and
media laws, and condemned "the inhuman and violent means to right
historical imbalances in land distribution".
On Thursday, the authorities charged nine reporters from the banned
independent newspaper, the Daily News, with breaching the country's
They are accused of operating without licences.
Police said that altogether 45 journalists from the paper were likely
to be charged on similar grounds.
The authorities closed down the Daily News - Zimbabwe's only
privately-owned paper - earlier this month, saying it was operating
without a warrant, after it had refused to register.
The controversial media laws were introduced following President
Mugabe's disputed election victory in 2002.
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