Tongogara Refugee Camp– Some 550 km southeast of Zimbabwe’s capital, Tongogara Refugee Camp has swollen to 7,000 inhabitants in the past year. UNHCR currently provides assistance to cover refugees’ basic needs, including food and shelter. However, the camp is captive to its surrounding’s dry and dusty climate, and few are able to work outside its boundaries. Starting in January 2015, WFP will work with UNHCR to address the food needs of Tongogara’s refugees with a view to provide more sustainable solutions. This will enable UNHCR to re-direct its support towards other programmes that focus on income generation and education. The new WFP-UNHCR partnership in Tongogara Camp will help bridge refugees’ tumultuous past to a more promising future.
Nditu Kimbanji*, a 22 year-old resident of Tongogara Refugee Camp, has established himself as the camp’s cobbler to supplement assistance from UNHCR. When fleeing from violence in Goma, DRC, Nditu carried an old family photo album—this is his only asset and remaining connection to his roots. While the conflict in Goma still haunts Nditu, he is left with basic assistance and his craftsman skillset to start anew in the camp. Yet even this does not seem enough.
“We can say we are in business but really there is no business.” says Nditu. “I repair shoes but may only get US$0.50 per day. Sometimes I only get one customer in a week.”
Tongogara Refugee Camp has been hosting refugees from all over Africa for decades. Established soon after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1981, the camp originally provided refuge for those fleeing Mozambique until the ceasefire in 1992. The camp re-opened in early 1998 with refugees arriving from the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa region— from countries such as DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
By Zimbabwean law, refugees are obliged to stay at the Tongogara Refugee Camp and only a few are permitted to work outside its boundaries. UNHCR is currently refocusing its efforts on expanding and diversifying programmes, such as income generation activities, to increase resilience of the refugee community. WFP is finalizing preparations to takeover food distributions in the camp starting January 2015. With WFP providing food assistance, UNHCR will be able to re-direct support to other critical needs such as shelter, water and sanitation, as well as education.
“It will cost WFP US$2 million per year to meet the food and nutrition needs of refugees at Tongogara refugee camp,” says WFP Country Director, Sory Oaune. “However, WFP has yet to receive any funding for this programme and, without it, we will be unable to start operations in January.”
*not his real name.