By Bruce Mulenga
UNHCR / 22 July 2019 - The United States Ambassador to Zambia, His Excellency Mr Daniel Foote has visited Mantapala settlement in Nchelenge district, Luapula province, to understand the experiences, challenges, and hopes of the refugees, and to appreciate the efforts of the Government of Zambia, UNHCR, the sister UN Agencies, and other implementing and operational partners who are assisting the government of Zambia to provide adequate protection and improved well-being of the refugees. He was accompanied by the UNHCR Country Representative Ms. Pierrine Aylara, the Refugees Officer in the office of the Commissioner of Refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr. Terry Chisha, Head of Kawambwa UNHCR Field Office Mr. Hashim Sharief, WFP Coordinator Ms. Margaret Indimuli, heads of government departments in Nchelenge, and several UNHCR as well as other humanitarian staff.
While in the settlement, the Ambassador took time to visit the registration office where refugees are biometrically registered in the proGres V4, a UNHCR Global database system managed by the Commissioner for Refugees with technical support of UNHCR. He visited the rub halls where food is stored before it is distributed to refugees. His Excellency visited the temporary transit centre where he greeted refugees and learnt that UNHCR intends to make it more permanent and habitable for new refugees in the context of Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).
He also saw the prototype of the shelter that was built for the vulnerable family and learnt that UNHCR intends to improve the shelters for refugees in the settlement. He visited the school which accommodates both refugees and pupils from the host community and was informed that many children had the interest to learn but were discouraged by the limited number of classrooms and the absence of laboratories for ICT and science subjects.
In his visit to the newly commissioned permanent clinic, he was impressed that it has a fully-fledged outpatient department, pharmacy, observation room, laboratory, nutrition room, and the maternal and child health block. He also learnt that the Ministry of Health in Nchelenge has, besides its contribution of making the clinic functional, some challenges in dispatching and sharing medicines and staff because the newly constructed clinic under the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is yet to be gazetted. Other challenges being faced were that there is no residence for health personnel let alone the critical lack of the simplest medical equipment. His Excellency further visited the temporary Police Post where he interacted with Police officers who informed him that they were operating in a makeshift structure and they required a permanent police infrastructure with a holding cell.
He was pleased that Mantapala was now habitable in a more comfortable way compared to Kenani transit centre where Congolese refugees were confined, and congratulated the government of Zambia, UNHCR and other partners for constructing a number of essential infrastructures and providing critical services to support the well-being of refugees including their host community. “I am extremely impressed and proud of the work you do. When provided with adequate resources, there are no limits to what you can achieve to make the lives of refugees better, and my government will continue supporting the work UNHCR is doing,” said Ambassador Foote. UNHCR Country Representative stated that her organization shares the common hopes with the government of Zambia for a stable and sustainable future for the refugees and the host community and that these hopes are made possible by the legendary and generous support of the US government. “Your contribution means a lot to us, and I wish to thank you personally, your government and the American citizens for the quality support extended to us to ensure the well-being of the refugees,” said Ms Pierrine Aylara, UNHCR Country Representative. Since the start of the DRC refugee influx into Zambia through the northern border, His Excellency Mr Daniel Foote has visited Congolese refugees on two occasions, and his government is one of the biggest donors for the DRC refugee operation in Zambia.
Mantapala settlement, in Luapula province, is currently hosting 14,799 refugees who have arrived in Zambia since August 2017 following the deterioration in the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are also seven host community villages integrated within Mantapala and other four villages surrounding the settlement with about 7,000 people sharing the same services with refugees