A refugee with her child at a food distribution in Osire settlement. (Copyright: WFP/Catherine Tiongco)
The last of Namibia's Angolan refugees are finally returning home. WFP is helping them on their way.
After 37 years of living in exile in Nambia, Joao’s hopes of returning home and being reunited with his family are about to be realised. The United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Government of Namibia and the Government of Angola have announced that remaining Angolan refugees will be repatriated. The decision follows intensive discussions and organised “go and see” missions to Angola for refugees to confirm first-hand that peace has indeed returned to their country - and that the risks that originally forced them to flee are no longer a threat.
“I’ve spent the prime of my life at Osire settlement where two of my four children and three grandchildren were born”, says Joao. “If it hadn’t been for the hospitality of the Namibian Government and the support from WFP, life would have been difficult for me and my family.”
WFP has provided food assistance to refugees in Namibia for more than 10 years. After the cessation of conflict in Angola in 2002, many Angolan refugees returned home but a small residual caseload of some 4,500 refugees remained in central Namibia under the care and maintenance of international organizations including WFP.
Joao is one of those Angolans who remained, unsure whether the peace back home would hold or not. While in exile, he and his family have been receiving regular monthly rations of food from WFP.
Angola has been enjoying relative peace since 2002. Working closely with UNHCR, WFP has been supporting the government of Namibia to find a durable solution for the many Angolan refugees in Namibia. In addition to receiving a generous financial package from UNHCR, Angolan refugees can take back all their personal belongings including household items, livestock and building material. From WFP, they get a food package to see them through their first three months at home.
“I’m very emotional about this”, says Joao. “The repatriation package will help lift the burden on our families that will host us once we get home and start rebuilding our lives”.
While the repatriation of the remaining Angolan refugees is underway, WFP will continue to provide food assistance to remaining refugees and asylum seekers from central Africa’s Great Lakes region until the end of the year. UNHCR will then assume the responsibility for the remaining refugees in Namibia.