Embarrassing: Chipinge villagers work for Tongogara refugees for food

Levi Mayihlome

ELLEN MLAMBO


CHIPINGE – It is ironic that people of a host country can be employed by refugees to do piece jobs.

This is exactly what is happening at Tongogara Refugee Camp in the Zimbabwe border district of Chipinge.

People from nearby villages are from time to time engaged by the refugees as couriers of food rations brought by donors.
They ferry the rations on their heads and wheel barrows to the different houses of the refugees and in return, they are given a cup of rice, meal mealie or cooking oil, various Parliamentary Committees that visited Tongogara were told last week.

Wilfred Mapiko of Terres des hommes (Tdh), told the Parliamentarians that it is an unhealthy situation for the host community to be less food secure than refugees because this has the potential to create serious conflict.

Terres des hommes (Tdh) is an international children’s rights charitable humanitarian umbrella organisation.
Defense, Home Affairs and Security Services Committee chairperson Retired Brigadier General Levi Mayihlome said the situation needed urgent redress.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative Abdoulaye Barry described the situation as embarrassing and told delegates that the matter was raised with the relevant Minister.

There are 14 643 refugees at Tongogara, Chipinge Times was told during the tour.

“There is an issue of concern involving the host community. I am sure you have seen wheelbarrows outside, these people are from the host community that are transporting rations to refugees’ places and they in turn get a cup of meal-mealie beans or cooking oil.

“It appears the refugees are better off than the host community and this is not a pleasant situation,” said Mapiko.
Refugees get 13,5kg mealie-meal, 2kg beans or peas, 750g cooking oil and 150 salt monthly.

Those who are chronically ill get 3kg super cereal and children between the age of 6 to 23 months, pregnant women and those who are breast feeding get 6kg.

In terms of non-food rations, refugees get a blanket each, laundry and hygiene soaps whilst new arrivals get blankets, kitchen set, water containers and mosquito nets.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade committee chairperson and Makonde MP Kindness Paradza acknowledged the untenable situation. He said that some refugees have even become business people operating restraunts and bars and they are no longer willing to go back to their countries.

Defense, Home Affairs and Security Services committee chairperson Retired Brigadier General Levi Mayihlome said in an interview with Chipinge Times that there is an urgent need to address the economic status of the host community.

“We mustn’t have a situation where the local community is poorer than refugees. This creates unnecessary conflict and it needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The host community must be equal or better than refugees,” said Mayihlome.
He added that they will take the matter to the relevant minister so that their situation is addressed.
The Zimbabwe Commissioner for Refugees Totamirepi Tirivavi said the matter is being looked into to make sure that the host community also get assistance.

The committees had visited Tongogara to assess the state of the camp, to find out how the laws of Zimbabwe and the International Convention affect the stay of refugees, to find out if there are any areas where there is need for amendment of legislations or ratification and challenges in terms of the local laws.

“WFP is in charge of food for the refugees and during the visit of the Minister here this issue was raised because it is really embarrassing. WFP country director was here with me and the issue is being looked into. We have taken good note of the point and hopefully a solution will be found,” said Barry.

Parliamentary committees on the tour included Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare, Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Senate Thematic Committee on Human Rights.

They also visited Chikurubi and Harare prisons last week. https://masvingomirror.com

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