Medical Humanitarian organisation Medicines sans Frontieres (MSF) has declared the situation at Kapise camp in Mwanza where Mozambican nationals are seeking refuge as ‘appalling ‘ and a serious health risk, with over 5800 refugees and 150 local households scrambling for a living.
Already, the organisation is treating about 159 people each day, half of whom are diagnosed with malaria while the rest are treated with respiratory infections and general body pain, according to Amaury Gregoire, MSF’s Head of Mission to Malawi.
Addressing the media today at MSF’s office in Blantyre, Gregoire said the camp has been hit hard by overcrowding, lack of proper shelter that causes a potential fire hazard, high risk of malaria as well as water and sanitation crises.
“The overcrowding and lack of sanitation make it a serious risk. For example, whereas the respect of minimum humanitarian conditions would require at least 1 latrine for 20 people, or in worst case scenarios 1 latrine for 50 people, there are only 14 latrines working against over 5800 people.
“Again, there are only two boreholes, that means poor hygiene and sanitation. Each person has on average 8 liters of water a day, barely enough to drink and cook and well below the minimum 15 to 20 liters recommended as a humanitarian minimum in emergency settings,” bemoaned Gregoire.
He said in the past week, MSF, which has now established a clinic at the space-starved camp, treated over 380 malaria cases, and the general living conditions are risking people to water-borne diseases prevalent during rainy seasons.
Gregoire also confirmed that a child died recently at the camp, but could not be drawn to comment on whether the death is linked to the conditions at the site.
The MSF Head of Mission then reiterated MSF’s call for the Government of Malawi to move the camp. He said “we don’t see reasons for not moving it” as Kapise camp is unsuitable to the provision of adequate humanitarian and protection standards.
Added Gregoire: “You must also know that the Mozambique border is barely 300 meters away from the camp and this is below the minimum recommended distance in these types of situations. The road to Kapise also becomes impassable due to heavy rains, so, it is important to move the camp.”
Recently, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to Malawi Monique Ekoko said appealed to donors and other humanitarian organisations for more funding to help the asylum seekers.
“The situation is alarming, the camp at Kapise is becoming too small with the ever increasing number of refugees and we are discussing with the Malawi government to consider re-opening Luwani refugee camp so that we move them there,” she said.
Luwani Camp hosted over one million Mozambican refugees who fled from their country’s 16 year civil war between 1977 and 1992.
But in an interview today, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Beston Chisamile said government was yet to determine on moving the refugees to a new camp.
“Discussions are ongoing between the Government of Malawi and that of Mozambique on the matter. Our friends in Mozambique want these people to go back home, so unless a decision is made between the two parties that they should remain in Malawi, then we can start thinking about moving them to a different place,” said Chisamile.
Most of the refugees are said to be coming from remote areas of Moatize district in Tete Province, which is deemed to be one of the strongholds of the opposition Renamo.