Gvt, Partners Readies Humanitarian Assistance For Tongogara Refugee Camp, As Mozambique Conflict Rages

THE Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare working together with various partners including the World Food Program (WFP) says they are ready to increase food and humanitarian assistance at Tongogara refugee camp should the demand for assistance increase at the back of conflict in neighboring Mozambique.

By Michael Gwarisa

Tongogara refugee camp currently houses not less than 15 000 refugees from various countries and should the conflict in Mozambique persist, there are fears it could lead to an influx of refugees coming to seek protection at Tongogara camp.

Speaking during a virtual meeting  to mark World Food Day, Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Public Service and Social welfare, Mr Simon Masanga said even though there hasn’t been an influx of refugees into Zimbabwe since the conflict escalated in Mozambique this year, they stand ready to avail food and other humanitarian needs to refugees who would have come to Tongogara.

We are aware that there is conflict in Mozambique and normally when there is conflict in Mozambique, there is an influx of refugees that come our way. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I don’t know, this time around we have not experienced a huge influx of refugees seeking protection at Tongogara refugee camp.

“Considering the proximity of Tongogara to Mozambique, we stand ready to react if such a situation arises. Working with civil society, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), UNHCR and WFP, we are ready to fulfill this international obligation of looking after our refugees using our own Refugees Act,” said Mr Masanga.

According to a report recently released by Amnesty International, at least 2,000 people have been killed since the conflict in in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province started three years ago. The violent attacks in Cabo Delgado have triggered a humanitarian crisis, with more than 300,000 internally displaced people and 712,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 350,000 people in the Mozambican province are facing severe food insecurity, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Mr Masanga however added that they are monitoring the situation and would assist the refugees should the numbers increase and demand for food and other services increase. He also said during the lockdown period in Zimbabwe, government worked closely with partners in the NGO sector to expand social protection services to citizens as well as refugees at Tongogara during the lockdown period in Zimbabwe.

“As part of our intervention in response to COVID-19 allowed our partners in the Civil Society or NGOs to step up their social protection programs. As a ministry, we also offered unrestricted travel warrants or authorities to all those who were involved in social protection. We stepped up social protection across the board because we wanted to minimize the negative impact of this COVID-19.

“We really did well in grain distribution we made sure that despite some erratic supplies of grain during the lockdown, we made sure that no district would go hungry during the lockdown. We also introduced a cash for cereal during the lockdown.

[pullquote]”We have also been looking after our refugees at Tongogara, we have a population of 15 000 refugees at Tongogara refugee camp and it was also the responsibility of the ministry to make sure that we stand working together with the WFP as much as possible.”[/pullquote]

Meanwhile, WFP Representative and Country Director, Ms Francesca Erdelmann said the number of food insecure households was set to increase in the country due to the effects of the COVID-19 and the WFP aims to reach some 4.5 million people with food and cash support over the coming months.

“In its background analysis, the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy recognizes that the proportion of Zimbabweans needing food has increased substantially over the past 5 years, increasing to 59% during the 2019-2020 lean season, but also being more pronounced during other times of the year.

“This year again we expect some 60% of Zimbabweans to food insecure – the recent ZIMVAC report has already highlighted the needs of some 5.5 million people in rural areas. Due to economic hardships, coupled with the impact of the COVID pandemic, we also see a rising proportion of urban dwellers who experience hunger – we expect to learn the details of their circumstances soon. It is critical that we address these needs. We cannot build a healthy and productive food system with a hungry population,” said Ms Erdelmann.

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