Triplets, (left to right) Aricardo, Kanaila and Kalinangila in new clothes at their home with the mother in Mantapala Refugee. UNHCR/ Bruce Mulenga

By Bruce Mulenga

It is now 20 months since Kaimba Kazi (36) and her five days old triplets arrived in Zambia’s Kenani transit centre in Nchelenge District, Luapula province after fleeing war from Moba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where she lived with her family and husband before getting divorced while pregnant.

Following her divorce, she migrated from Moba to Mwomboshi village, about 300 kilometres, in the outskirt of Pweto town. When her time came to give birth, she was told by doctors at Pweto General Hospital that she was carrying triplets who were soon to be born. While in hospital giving birth, heavy fighting between rebels and government soldiers erupted in Pweto. She could not go back home with the newly born triplets.

“I could not go home because the whole town and my village were engulfed in violence. I could not stay in the hospital because medical workers told us it was not safe for everyone to stay. I was aided by people I did not know to flee the hospital to Zambia through Chiengi border point using a motorbike,” said Kaimba Kazi. “When I arrived at Nchelenge, in Zambia, I stayed at Kenani reception centre where I reunited with my four other children who fled while I was in hospital.” Kaimba, as a single mother, struggled to construct her shelter and feed her family of seven at Kenani reception centre and even when she relocated to Mantapala settlement. Her triplets, the youngest members of the family, had insufficient food, clothing, and limited access to medical services.

UNHRC Protection Assistant,Musenge Makashi presents clothes for Kaimba Kazi’s triplets at her home in Mantapala UNHRC/Bruce Mulenga

As months passed by and the need to support the triplets grew, a mother of a child herself, Ms. Thithi Kuhlase-Maseko, who lives in the neighboring country of Zimbabwe, was compelled to act after seeing the images, on UNHCR Zambia facebook, of moderately malnourished triplets of Kaimba in ragged clothes in Mantapala settlement.

“When I saw the pictures of the triplets in Mantapala settlement on UNHCR Zambia facebook, I didn’t just see little kids face-down. I saw what could have been my children with little clothing, hungry and malnourished. I was moved to share a few clothes with them,” said Ms. Kuhlase-Maseko. She adds that her gesture could compel more well-wishers to extend their support to refugees in dire need of decent shelter, water and sanitation, and livelihoods in the settlement.On receiving the clothes, Kaimba expressed gratitude and reiterated that her triplets will now have clothes for winter. “Because of this gift, my children now have clothes for winter, and I am so grateful for the donation,” said Kaimba Kazi.

Kaimba’s dream is to see her children grow healthy and become doctors. However, her fear, like many other refugees in Mantapala settlement, is that her children are exposed to cold, dust, and dangerous crawling reptiles because she lives in temporally plastic shelter with no light. Like many other single mothers, she fears that she is not able to fend for her children adequately because there are limited livelihood opportunities in Mantapala settlement.

Kaimba and many other refugees believe that Mantapala settlement is a better place to rebuild their hopes and become productive, but only when access to livelihoods, decent shelter, water and sanitation are improved.

Currently, over 14,790 refugees are living in Mantapala settlement and about 79 percent are women and children with limited access to livelihoods, decent shelter and sanitation. The government, UNHCR, other UN agencies and NGOs are committed to ensure that refugees in Mantapala settlement have adequate protection facilities and services.

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