The new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Poul Hartling is visiting Southern Africa?
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Background: The new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Poul Hartling is visiting Southern Africa to get a personal view of the refugee situation in the region. Last week he began a four-day visit to Mozambique and after talks with President Samora Machel, visited one of several Rhodesian refugee camps in the country.
SYNOPSIS: Mr. Hartling -- the former Prime Minister of Denmark -- only took up his new office a month ago. One of his first priorities is to gain first-hand experience of the refugee situation in southern Africa, and Mozambique was the first country to be visited. His talks with Mozambique's President, Samora Machel, centred on ways of improving living conditions for the 42,000 Zimbabwean refugees who have flocked into Mozambique from neighbouring Rhodesia.
Current hostilitics in Rhodesia have exacerbated the refugee situation in Southern Africa and the UNHCR is pouring an increasing amount of aid into the region. Since 1976, Mozambique has received more than 3 million U.S. dollars in aid, and this year it has been allocated a further 2.8 million. The majority of it comes in the form of medical supplies, food and blankets.
As part of a walk-about tour, Mr. Hartling visited a refugee camp at Doroi. Accompanied by officials of the National Centre for Support to Refugees and Liberation Movements, he discussed the problems facing the camp. The greatest of these appeared to be severe overcrowding and food shortages. Within the last six months the population of Doroi has grown by more than 9,000 - many of them survivors from another refugee camp at Chimoio, which was attacked by Rhodesian troops in November last year. Although rice is supplied by a number of foreign donors, the inhabitants suffer from poor nutrition, and according to officials their morale is low.
Health facilities within the camp are also poor and disease is rife. Pneumonia, malaria, chicken-pox and intestinal problems take their daily toll, and add to the refugees' increasing discomfort. Local officials say the supplies that are being sent are inadequate and not geared to the growing number of refugees housed at Doroi. There are many cases of mental illness - particularly among those who experienced the raid on Chimoio. And officials say they need more skilled doctors, better sanitation and education, and improved accommodation to relieve the burden on existing camp facilities. All these requests were put to Mr. Hartling when he visited the camp.