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Government moots Meheba betterment plan

MEHEBA Refugee Settlement in Kalumbila district, North-Western Province, has for over five decades been home to thousands of asylum seekers.
Established in 1971, the refugee settlement, which is situated about 80 kilometres west of Solwezi central business district, covers about 720 square kilometres.
The settlement is demarcated into eight blocks from A to G where refugees from various countries that experienced civil war, including Burundi, Rwanda, Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are hosted in the various zones.
Meheba Refugee Settlement currently has a population of about 37,035 refugees, some of whom have lived there for over 30 years. At its peak in 2003, it played host to 47,670 asylum seekers.
Despite the refugee settlement having been established about eight years after Zambia got her independence, it lacks certain social amenities, and where these exist, they are not enough to cater for the entire refugee population.
For example, Meheba still lacks social amenities such as electricity and internet services.
It, however, has 13 schools consisting of three community, eight primary and two secondary schools.
The settlement also has seven clinics, two police posts, three transit centres, two safe houses for children at risk and two centres for women at risk.
One of the refugees, Mami Kapila Bisimwa, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo and has lived at Meheba Refugee Settlement for about 26 years, shares her experience of the place she now calls home.
Ms Kapila said Meheba Refugee Settlement, which is renowned for its locally grown rice called Meheba, has fertile soils for agricultural production, but refugees are unable to access subsidised farm inputs from Government to exploit their full farming potential because of their status.
She also complained about the bad road network, poor access to clean and safe drinking water and lack of electricity at the refugee settlement. This has made it difficult for farmers in the camp to thrive because there is no value addition to the locally grown crops like Irish potatoes, rice and sweet potatoes, among others.
“I came to Zambia in 1997 and when we arrived here, the Government of Zambia welcomed us very well and we were given land to settle.
“When we arrived, Meheba was not like this, at least now it has changed but CLICK TO READ MORE