Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Zambia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Zambia , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 21 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Zambia hosted nearly 250,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2002, including some 190,000 from Angola, more than 50,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, 5,000 from Rwanda, 1,000 from Burundi, and 1,000 from various other countries.

Refugees from Angola

More than 25 years of civil war in Angola pushed approximately 200,000 refugees into Zambia. Some Angolan refugees have lived in Zambia since the 1970s, while others arrived as recently as 2002.

Angola's war abruptly ended in mid-2002, enabling an estimated 25,000 refugees to repatriate spontaneously from Zambia in the second half of the year. Significantly larger numbers planned to repatriate during 2003.

About 100,000 Angolan refugees lived on their own in villages and urban areas of Zambia. An additional 90,000 lived in three camps in western Zambia: Meheba, Mayukwayukwa, and Nangweshi. About 2,000 former combatants and family members lived in a fourth camp, Ukwimi.

In early 2002, relief agencies expanded Nangweshi camp to alleviate overcrowding caused by the arrival of thousands of new refugees during the preceding 18 months. A census conducted at all camps during 2002 found about 40,000 Angolan refugees living at Meheba camp and nearly 25,000 at both Nangweshi and Mayukwayukwa.

Humanitarian agencies distributed food to camp residents who have arrived since 1998, while longer-term refugees supported themselves by farming and engaging in small business activities. Meheba and Mayukwayukwa camps offered ample farmland.

Occupants of Nangweshi camp remained largely dependent on food assistance, however, because farm plots near the camp were smaller and less fertile. Temporary shortages in international food donations forced relief workers to cut refugees' rations by 50 percent early in the year.

Although health conditions among the refugee population were generally satisfactory, a measles outbreak in August killed 15 residents of one camp. Long-term refugees usually paid the equivalent of 25 cents or less to receive care at Zambian health clinics; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) paid for newer refugees' health care. Jesuit Refugee Service provided prostheses and special training for hundreds of refugees who suffered amputations after landmine injuries in Angola's war.

About half of the 32,000 school-age children living in refugee camps attended schools either in their camps or in neighboring communities. Humanitarian agencies also offered training to adults in tailoring, basket making, and other projects that might earn income.

As in previous years, poor roads and annual floods hampered access to some refugee sites. UNHCR operated a small boat to reach Nangweshi camp during the rainy season.

Zambian officials ignored UNHCR's requests to move Nangweshi to a more accessible location. Occupants of Mayukwayukwa camp complained about insufficient water supplies and an occasional lack of soap and extra clothing.

UNHCR appealed to international donors in August for $5 million to fund a special program, known as the Zambian Initiative, designed to help self-settled Angolan refugees and the impoverished Zambian communities hosting them.

The program planned to support irrigation and other agricultural projects for refugees and Zambians, maternity wards and health clinics for use by refugees and local residents, more schools and vocational training programs, and improved roads and water systems.

Government officials and UNHCR hoped that the Zambian Initiative would demonstrate that "refugees are ... agents of development who can contribute to the local community." The governments of Japan, Denmark, Sweden, and the United States provided partial funding for the program.

The Zambian Initiative received a setback, however, when the Zambian parliament failed to pass legislation granting citizenship to Angolan refugees who were born in Zambia or had lived there for 15 years.

The Angolan refugee population temporarily received international publicity in 2002 when 30 Angolan refugee children traveled from Zambia to Italy with UNHCR assistance to participate in a musical concert that raised more than $1 million for refugee relief efforts.

Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa

Warfare in Congo-Kinshasa (also known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) has forced refugees into Zambia since 1998. Several thousand new refugees arrived during 2002.

Estimates of the size of the refugee population varied considerably because population movements across the border remained fluid. Numerous waves of refugees have arrived during the past four years; many found shelter in border areas without official assistance, and thousands of refugees returned to Congo-Kinshasa uncounted, without help.

Congolese refugees primarily lived in two camps in northern Zambia. About 23,000 refugees lived in Mwange camp, and 18,000 in Kala camp.

Camp residents experienced food shortages for the second consecutive year as the World Food Program cut rations in half for several months to compensate for inadequate donations from wealthy nations. The cutback caused nutrition problems among newly arrived refugees.

Zambian authorities allocated more than 12,000 acres (5,000 hectares) of additional land for refugee farming, and new farmers' cooperatives helped refugees market their crops for income.

About 14,000 refugee children attended primary schools in the camps; about 600 students attended secondary schools. Camp schools adhered to the Congolese curriculum. Adults took skills-training courses in agriculture, carpentry, brick making, sewing, bee-keeping, and raising chickens.

Refugees from Rwanda

Up to 5,000 Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers who fled their country in 1994 have made their way to Zambia in recent years. Many arrived after living several years in neighboring Congo-Kinshasa and trekking hundreds of miles through that country to escape Rwandan soldiers pursuing them.

Zambian police detained 50 Rwandans in December on suspicion that they were involved in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and had fought in Congo-Kinshasa's war.

As the year ended, officials from Zambia, Rwanda, and UNHCR were considering launching an organized repatriation program to encourage all Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers to return home voluntarily.

Search Refworld