HARARE, (Xinhua) --
Clutching her one-year old baby, Tendai Ndlovu
dashes out of her tent to attend to a pot on cooking fire.
The cooking place is
just three meters away from a shallow pit latrine, and there is
a heavy stench around the area.
appears unconcerned about the poor sanitation and is happy that
at least she is living peacefully in Zimbabwe.
Ndlovu is among 900
refugees that have been displaced by raging war in Mozambique
and are staying at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Zimbabwe since
She told Xinhua that
while living conditions at the camp are harsh, she is grateful
that she and her family managed to escape the war and seek
shelter in Zimbabwe.
“I am happy that we
are safe here but we are living under difficult conditions. I
came with nothing and I am living in this small tent with my
family of six.
“We are facing a
shortage of food, water, clothes, blankets and cooking utensils.
Our children are not going to school and we do not have any
piece of land to till,” said the 34-year-old Ndlovu.
Tucked away 420 km
south east of Harare, Tongogara Refugee Camp is a rudimentary
home that is sanctuary to thousands of refugees from several
The population is
largely comprised of single women, single men, the elderly,
chronically ill people, and unaccompanied minors with some 5
percent of assisted families being child-headed households.
The camp is an
epitome of hope to refugees who have fled war and civil strife
in different parts of Africa, and who remains in need of
assistance to meet their most basic needs.
the camp in 1980 when it attained independence from Britain to
accommodate Mozambican refugees who were fleeing war between
forces from the Mozambican government and the opposition
Mozambican National Resistance Movement (RENAMO).
By 1995, the
Zimbabwean government had voluntarily repatriated all the
Mozambicans, who numbered about 65,000, back to their country
after peace had been restored.
This resulted in the
camp being closed for three years before it was re-opened in
1998 after the country started to receive a high number of
asylum seekers from other parts of Africa.
According to camp
administrator Misheck Zengeya, Tongogara Refugee Camp is
currently home to about 10,000 refugees from the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Burundi, Rwanda,
Somalia, Ivory Coast, Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan.
It also accommodates
refugees from Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.
The refugee number
shot above 5,000 in 2015 due to escalating turmoil in countries
such as the DRC, Burundi and Mozambique.
Zengeya said the
camp had witnessed a sharp increase in the number of refugees
from Mozambique in the last few months due to renewed fighting
between RENAMO and government forces.
This had exerted
pressure on existing facilities and more resources were now
required to meet the needs of the increasing refugee population
at the camp, he said.
According to Zengeya,
900 Mozambicans were granted refugee status and started staying
at the camp in December 2016, and between 20 and 30 asylum
seekers are arriving at the camp spontaneously from the
strife-torn neighboring country each week.
He said about 4,500
Mozambicans had also fled the war into Zimbabwe, and were living
with their relatives along the border.
These were expected
to be relocated to Tongogara Camp in the coming months as the
government deems that they pose a security risk and should be
moved to the refugee camp.
conditions are generally poor for the refugee population at
Tongogara, the conditions are much more severe for the 900
Since they arrived
in December, they have been staying in tents provided by the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They do
not have access to clean water and ablution facilities, and face
Their children have
not yet been enrolled into school, except for the infants who
are attending pre-school.
Zengeya said the
authorities were waiting for the rains to stop so that they
could start assisting the refugees to build proper home
“As government, we
have provided land for these people to build houses but we are
appealing to donors to assist with cement so that the immigrants
can build strong structures.
“This year about 300
houses for the refugees were destroyed by the heavy rains
because the bricks they use to construct their houses are
moulded with mud only,” Zengeya said.
population swelled beyond 5,000, the United Nations World Food
Program (WFP) took over food distributions in the camp in
January 2015, subsequently changing to cash based transfers in
order to allow refugees to make their own purchase decisions
about food and basic necessities.
On a monthly basis,
the WFP provides cash-based transfers, sufficient to meet 100
percent of a refugee’s energy requirements while new arrivals
are receiving an in-kind transfer (until they are registered) to
cover the potential gap between arrival and the start of regular
However, the UN
agency is facing funding shortages for its refuge aid program,
and is appealing for 2.5 million U.S. dollars to sustain its
life-saving food assistance to this vulnerable population.
funding would enable WFP to provide full food assistance to
about 15,000 refugees for nine months from April to December
“The funding will
allow WFP to provide cash transfers for the general refugee
population, equivalent to a complete food basket consisting of
maize meal, pulses, oil, sugar and salt, which is intended to
meet a person’s full daily energy requirements based on a 2,100
kcal per day diet,” according to WFP.
Italian aid agency
Terre Des Hommes (TDH) that is proving health, education and
child protection support at the camp said it was failing to cope
with increased demand for services due to the influx of
“Currently more than
200 Mozambican children are not going to school because of a
shortage of facilities and teachers. Right now we have children
who are learning under trees and we have this additional
population from Mozambique that needs to go to school,” lamented
Wlifred Mapiko, the program coordinator for TDH.
Teacher in charge at
Tongogara Primary School Tracy Mutema said the school, with a
total enrolment of 1,694 pupils, was facing a severe shortage of
classrooms, resulting in children learning under the trees.
“We have a challenge
of shortage of classrooms and we need more teachers, teacher
accommodation, exercise books and textbooks,” she said.
There is a secondary
school at the camp, which also requires additional resources due
to the growing refugee population.
Mapiko said the
Italian aid agency required additional resources for the clinic
such as drugs and more staff.
Sister in-charge at
the clinic Rugare Marambire explained that due to the influx of
Mozambican refugees, additional nurses, medicines and financial
resources to expand the clinic were now required.
population in Tongogara Camp was projected to rise to 15,000 by
end of 2017 due to increasing hostility in Mozambique and the
Great Lakes Region.
from traditional sources is declining but the refugee problem is
increasing. We therefore need to focus on creating partnerships
to get more resources to handle the growing refugee population,”
Sakulala added that
in the face of dwindling resources, WFP and UNHCR were
prioritizing livelihood projects in the camp to ensure the
refugees become self-reliant.
Goal Zimbabwe is one
aid agency running several livelihood projects aimed at building
resilience and capacitating the refugees to attain
livelihoods program was being hampered by shortage of farming
land, said Goal Zimbabwe senior field officer Tichaona Gadzikwa.
He said due to
shortage of farming land, only half of the households numbering
1,023 were participating in the livelihoods program which
includes poultry and piggery projects as well as crop farming.
“Altogether the land
size is just 25 hectares of irrigated land and the plots per
household are very small, about 0.05 ha and this is not
sufficient for families to grow enough food,” said Gadzikwa.
He said Mozambicans
were not involved in the livelihoods program due to shortage of
“We are however
trying to come up with a community nutrition and market
gardening project for them,” he said.
The organization was
also working on diversifying from agro-based projects into value
While some refugees,
especially those from DRC who have stayed longer at Tongogara,
express no interest of going back home, many Mozambicans are
keen to go back home when the political situation stabilizes.