New York- US (PANA) -- Zambia Wednesday appealed to the international community for more assistance to deal with the refugee crisis in the country caused by displaced persons from neighbouring countries.
Christiana Lambart, Deputy Permanent Secretary in Zambia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who made the appeal to the UN Committee on Social and Humanitarian Affairs, said the country was hosting more than 270,000 refugees spewed by the civil wars in the Great Lakes region.
These include 213,606 Angolans, 45,109 DR Congo citizens, 2,282 from Burundi, 937 Somalis, 229 Ugandans and 2,977 refugees from other parts of Africa.
She complained that the large number of refugees exerted severe pressures on the country's economic and social infrastructure, adding that 134,809 of the refugees had settled among urban and border communities in the country.
"This phenomenon has resulted in a dangerous proliferation of illegal arms in the country, which in turn has resulted in increased violent crime in which firearms are used," Lambart added.
She said some ex-combatants, who reported to refugee camps were found to be engaging in illicit trading in firearms and small weapons along the borders.
The Zambian official said the government was disarming identified ex-fighters to ensure that refugee camps were not used as regrouping centres, while separate camps had been introduced for war veterans who came as displaced persons.
"The geopolitical realities in the sub-region compel us to make our contribution to efforts to achieve political stability in most of Zambia's neighbouring countries," she said, adding that social services such as education, health, water and sanitation had been over-stretched by the large number of refugees.
Lambart called for increased financial and manpower assistance to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Zambian government, to cope with the increasing number of refugees.