Malawi struggles to host thousands of Mozambicans escaping violence.

Hundreds of Mozambicans continue to cross over the border into neighbouring Malawi as they escape fighting between rebels and government forces in the country’s west. The UN is increasing support to cater for a growing number of affected civilians.

MWANZA, MALAWI (RECENT) (UNHCR) – About 100 kilometres south of Malawi’s capital Lilongwe, civilians escaping conflict in neighbouring Mozambique continue to arrive at the Kapise refugee camp.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says Malawi is receiving around 250 Mozambicans a day fleeing political discord and worsening fighting between former civil war foes at home.

About 11,500 Mozambican refugees have crossed into Malawi since December, most of them have settled in Kapise.

Mozambicans who arrived earlier in the year spoke of having fled deadly attacks on their villages, while more recent arrivals say they are fearful of clashes between the government and Renamo guerrillas.

Renamo, Mozambique’s main opposition group, has said it wants to take control of six northern provinces.

Renamo fighters have attacked police outposts near the Malawi border in recent weeks, where they have public support, while government forces retaliate by torching villages where they believe rebels are hiding, security sources say.

One million people died and a further million fled to Malawi during Mozambique’s 1976 to 1992 civil war between Renamo, originally a guerrilla force backed by neighbouring white-minority powers and Frelimo, the communist movement which took power at independence in 1975 and remains the ruling party.

The refugee influx is putting a strain on Malawi’s stretched resources at a time when one of the worst droughts in its history is expected to plunge 2.8 million people into hunger.

UNHCR has expressed concern on the growing number of arrivals at the Karise site, which has lead to overcrowding. Preparations are under way to reopen a camp called Luwani, which closed in 2007.

“It is congested. It is very, very congested and to really improve the conditions here either you are looking at more land from the community, and the local community is already under so much pressure. They were already been so generous or you are looking at relocation. And from the perspective of the UN to really improve these conditions, with this number of people, the relocation is the better option,” said Mia Seppo, the UN resident coordinator in Malawi.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has sent some 240 metric tons of diverse food commodities including fortified blended foods to prevent malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies amongst the population, and children under age two in particular.

Aid funds are in short supply across southern Africa, where 14 million people need food aid as a result of the El Nino weather phenomenon.