Primo Luanda, Tatiana Bauma and Resh Tikwa are refugees living in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, 50 km from the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, where the World Food Programme (WFP) distributes food, and the cash to buy food, to refugees. The three are part of Ramiro Prod, a community-based youth organization in Dzaleka that promotes artistic and creative expression. Below they speak in one voice, following conversations with WFP staff.
This is where we live. We are people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and many other countries. We’ve fled violence, persecution and insecurity to find peace in Malawi. The camp we live in is designed for 10,000 people. But we are more than 40,000 people here. It is, indeed, crowded.
For a couple of months now, we’ve seen buckets at the entrance of churches and shops. We’ve seen people wearing masks. We’ve seen offices closing down. What is going on?
We’ve also seen our schools closing. Our little brothers and sisters make up new games every day to while away the hours but there is still boredom here — lots of it. It’s sad to see classrooms shut down.
People were able to leave the camp to find work, but now we don’t get the permits to do that anymore so a lot of people are struggling with their businesses. We are getting cash to buy food, at least.
At the distribution site, we have to wash hands and practise social distancing. It is not easy to stay safe from the virus but everyone is doing their best. The Government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have also set up an isolation centre for newly arrived asylum-seekers. Three people in the isolation centre tested positive on 4 June.
But among glimmers of light such as Ramiro Prod is the local NGO operating in the camp, aptly named There is Hope. It’s been supporting vulnerable refugees for a long time, but since the beginning of the pandemic it has started to produce face masks and business is booming.
We don’t know when things will go back to normal but we hope for the best. At the end of the day, we managed to run away from our countries, so we are confident that we can also beat this virus.
The number of refugees in Malawi has doubled since 2013. WFP is grateful for the support of USAID, Russia and the Netherlands Postcode Lottery in meeting the increased needs of people in Dzaleka camp, resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.