Editor's Comment

It’s time for action

PRESIDENT Lungu admires triplets born to a Congolese refugee at Kenani transit camp in Nchelenge district. Looking on are United Nations resident coordinator Janet Rogan (second right) and Luapula Province minister Nixon Chilangwa (third right). PICTURE: ALEX MUKUKA/ ZANIS

IT MUST be tough enough to seek solutions for the many challenges Zambians face.

It is even harder to have to step forward in attempts to resolve challenges that ordinarily should be for other countries.
Such is the case for the thousands of refugees who are streaming into Zambia from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and this is no ordinary matter. It is a matter that calls for urgent action.
Evidently, this is why Zambia continues to lend a helping hand to asylum seekers to ease their anguish. President Lungu has stepped forward to do just that.
His tour of Luapula Province yesterday, to Nchelenge in particular, has highlighted the refugee crisis the province is grappling with as insecurity escalates in the DRC.
While President Lungu paid tribute to traditional leaders in Luapula for being hospitable by hosting their brothers and sisters from the neighbouring country, we are worried that the international community is lukewarm towards the political strife in Congo.
The international community is evidently not doing enough to help ease or end the conflict in the DRC.
Yet the issue of refugees has been discussed at various forums.
One year ago, the member states of the United Nations came together unanimously to adopt the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.
This declaration was a strong endorsement of the need for greater international co-operation on this issue.
It was hailed as a landmark in the UN’s efforts to find compassionate and people-centred solutions to the challenges the world faces.
The world is now at the halfway point towards agreeing on these compacts. While much has been accomplished, a lot of work remains.
This issue was discussed on the sidelines of this year’s UN General Assembly where President Lungu was hailed for accommodating refugees.
It was also one of the agenda items during heads of state meeting on the refugee situation held in Congo Brazaville.
The UN acknowledges refugee protection is not a matter of generosity or a show of solidarity. It is an obligation under international law, starting with the 1951 Convention and encompassing many other binding instruments.
However, hosting refugees has its own security risk because some hardcore criminals infiltrate neighbouring countries under the guise of refugees.
That is why President Lungu counselled the refugees during his rare interaction with them yesterday.
He advised the refugees to adhere to the laws of the land because anything to the contrary, they will be dealt with.
Some refugees may come already sick and expose citizens of the host country to some diseases which are difficult to cure.
The unprecedented number of refugees coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo is also having an impact on resources.
Both Government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees are having a tough time looking after the refugees.
The UNHCR says it is increasingly concerned by escalating displacement it is seeing in several key regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UNHCR says since 2015, the number of people displaced internally has more than doubled and now stands at 3.9 million people – some 428,000 of these having been displaced in the past three months alone.
Over the past year, some 100,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees. With widespread militia activities, and unrest and violence fuelled by ethnic and political conflict affecting many areas, the risk of further displacement is high. The challenges of getting aid to people in need are growing fast.
This calls for urgent action from across the globe.

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