Blantyre — U.N. agencies in Malawi say an influx of hundreds of refugees escaping fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo is straining already scarce resources at Malawi’s largest refugee camp. The U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) has warned it is quickly running out of food aid for the camp’s more than 50,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.
The U.N.’s World Food Program says the influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo is putting pressure on resources. The WFP has long provided monthly food ration assistance to more than 50,000 refugees in Malawi.
“Since 2021, WFP has been providing food to refugees through cash transfers,” said Badre Bahaji, the head of communications for WFP in Malawi. “Refugees receive ATM cards and get entitlement in the bank account, while the values are adjusted based on market prices. WFP has been providing reduced rations to about 75 percent of daily caloric needs because we don’t have sufficient resources.”
Bahaji says currently the WFP has sufficient resources to provide food assistance to refugees until February 2023.
“Throughout 2022 food prices have been on the rise, eroding the limited purchasing power of Malawi’s poor and refugees alike. The situation is alarming because as the 2022/2023 lean period approaches, prices would likely shoot upwards,” he said.
Conflict in the DRC has resulted in a continued flow of refugees into Malawi for more than two decades.
Tens of thousands of people in the DRC were displaced recently after rebels captured new territory there.
The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says in September alone the Dzaleka camp, about 40 kilometers north of the capital, Lilongwe, received 423 refugees, many from the DRC.
This is slightly above an average of between 300 and 400 refugees per month.
Kenyi Emanuel, the reporting officer for UNHCR in Malawi, says the camp that can hold some 10,000 people is already overcrowded.
“That is one big challenge. Secondly, the funding has been severely cut really, really down compared to previous years. Meaning that providing basic services to the new arrivals and to those already in the camp is becoming a big challenge,” he said.
Emanuel says efforts to ask for more assistance from donors have not been successful.
Last Wednesday, some refugees at the Dzaleka camp protested the loss of food rations after the WFP cut them off from the food ration list as part of its targeted assistance program which seeks to help those in need.
As of Monday, demonstrators were still holding onto a WFP vehicle, saying they will not release it until the U.N. agency meets their demands.
The WFP says it plans to retrieve the vehicle through peaceful negotiations.