Malawi is seeking donations to feed more than 50,000 refugees facing shortages at the country's only refugee camp.
Government officials said the camp's food stock is expected to be depleted by December. The appeal comes after the World Food Program last month cut by half the food rations for the refugees because of funding problems.
The refugees at the Dzaleka refugee camp said the food shortage has become worse largely because of the ongoing forcible relocation of refugees, who are staying outside of the camp.
"We are so many in the camp because of these people from the outside of camp; the people who were in towns," said Burundian refugee Niyibigira Goreth, a community leader at the Dzaleka refugee camp. "So, now, all of them are here relying on food ration. Yeah, it's a big problem that we have here."
Relocations started in June
The Malawi government started relocating refugees and asylum seekers in June in adherence with its encampment policy that restricts the refugees to living and operating within camp premises.
Malawian officials said more than 2,000 of the targeted 8,000 refugees have been relocated to the camp.
Last month, the World Food Program cut food rations for the refugees by one-half because of funding problems. It appealed for $6.3 million to meet the food needs for the refugees up to June of next year.
However, Malawi Homeland Security Minister Ken Zikhale Ng'oma told a press conference Wednesday the action has put the government in an awkward situation.
"Now it is like a bottleneck to the government," said Ng'oma. "The [food] ration or capacity that we have will end in December. So, we need to try means and modalities that help us so that we lobby the donors to support us, so that we are able to feed our people."
Home to thousands
Dzaleka is home to upwards of 50,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Somalia.
However, the food shortage at the refugee camp is forcing some of the relocated refugees to return to areas outside the camp.
Lawmaker Victor Musowa told the Malawi parliament on Wednesday that many relocated refugees have returned to his area.
"All Burundians in my community are back, and majority of them are Seventh Day Adventists," said Musowa. "I am happy to declare that I go to church with them, and they are contributing to the Church, so we should look at another way of solving this."
Another lawmaker, Sameer Suleman, said it would be proper if Malawi allowed those refugees who have long stayed outside the camp to remain in place wherever they are.
"For so long, we have accommodated them, and their kids don't know other homes but Malawi," said Suleman. "I think it will be inhumane to remove these refugees. Let's consider incorporating them into the society, we have already done that. That's my view."
In a statement Tuesday, though, Malawi's Homeland Security Ministry gave the refugees who have left the camp and returned outside the camp, seven days to relocate to the camp or risk having their refugee status revoked.