A United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) official has described conditions at Dukwi Refugee Camp as ‘appalling and deplorable’.
UNHCR associate protection officer, Layla Anabtawi warned that at least 2, 300 refugees at the camp – many of them women and children – are ill-equipped for the cold of winter.
“Primary school going kids wear thin clothes. Most of them are failing to concentrate in class because of the low temperatures. Young kids are walking to school with one-layered clothes,” highlighted the concerned officer.
“This is the time we really need clothing donations,” stressed Anabtawi, who was fielding questions last Friday after receiving bathing towels, winter gowns and sanitary pads from Masa Square Hotel on behalf of the refugees.
“It is pretty cold out here, and nobody is there to help them, bearing in mind that UNHCR is scaling down its operations here in Botswana. We are appealing to the business community to assist the refugees,” continued Anabtawi, who praised Masa, which is a subsidiary of African Hotels and Adventure (AHA) Group, for their generosity.
Located 110km northwest of Francistown, Dukwi is home to refugees from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Somalia, Eritrea and the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) amongst others.
During a guided tour of the camp, The Voice witnessed refugees living in tents while some young children walked around barefooted.
In addition, many of the refugees, especially the children, look malnourished – leaving them more vulnerable in the cold temperatures, which are expected to drop to below zero by July.
Without tangible intervention, Anabtawi said she is not optimistic about improvements.
For her part, Masa Square Hotel Sales and Marketing Manager Neo Nkele said her organisation always finds joy in sharing with underprivileged members of the community in order to make a difference.
Nkele promised this was not the end but the beginning of a long relationship with the refugee community in Botswana.
The Hotel made the donation while on their annual nationwide tour, which started on May 27 and ended on June 2.