The Book Bus UNHCR Meheba Project
It’s an amazing feeling: being read to and then being able to read the words for yourself. Every book becomes an adventure that gives you the power of understanding and opens the doors of perception. From Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter or Hello Magazine to Homer’s Odyssey, all that we read shapes the person we become. Knowledge and education can keep us from harm and boost our chances of a healthy future. Or as Nelson Mandela put it:
"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”
We need volunteers
to join us on board
the Book Bus
for either 3 or 6 weeks
Meheba was opened in 1971 for refugees who fled Angola during the Angolan revolution against the Portuguese. In the 1990’s, Meheba started receiving refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Burundi. Meheba was projected to close down after thousands of Angolan refugees voluntarily repatriated, but repatriation ended after the Angolan war flared up again in 1998. Although near 64,000 Angolan refugees were successfully repatriated, efforts to repatriate Rwandan refugees have proven unsuccessful. At its greatest capacity, Meheba Settlement provided refuge for ~120,000 refugees from Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Sudan.
Where is it?
Meheba Refugee settlement is situated 75km from Solwezi, the Provincial Headquarters of the North-Western Province. It is 75km from Solwezi up to the entrance of the camp. From there it is another 18km from the entrance to the UNHCR offices. There is a good tarmac road from Solwezi to the entrance of Meheba. The 18km road from the camp entrance to the offices is a gravel road.
What’s it like?
Meheba Refugee Settlement covers a vast area of 720 sq km. It is divided into 8 blocks from A to H and into 125 roads and villages. The average household plot is 25 x 30 meters, the average family size is 6 persons. The average agriculture farming plot per household is 2.5 hectares. The population of the camp is 15,756 of which 5,128 are children. Some of them attend school while others do not. There are 3 types of schools in Meheba; 1 high school, 5 basic schools and 9 community schools.
Agriculture is the main source of income, but farmers struggle with poor soil quality and expensive fertilizer. There are very few job opportunities that offer minimal pay. Farming, small business, and limited agency jobs are the sole alternatives. Men are generally employed in greater numbers than women, and have usually received more schooling than women. Most women are married with children by their late teens. Most refugees in Meheba practice Christianity.
Education levels vary greatly. Most refugees living in Meheba have received some primary education, but very few can afford the high cost of secondary school. Classes are conducted in English, are generally overcrowded and under-resourced. The Zambian Ministry of Education runs five elementary schools and one high school. Many smaller communities within Meheba are too far from government-run primary schools for children to attend classes there. As a result, many children in Meheba do not attend school at all. Some organizations offer vocational and trade classes to teach practical skills.
The Zambian Ministry of Health operates five clinics in Meheba, although medical staff and medication are often in short supply. Malaria is a primary health concern, especially with young children. The rate of Meheba residents living with HIV/AIDS is unknown.
UNHCR-“Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”
Established on December 14th 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly, its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.
In more than five decades, the agency has helped an estimated 50million people restart their lives. Today a staff of around 6,300 people in more than 110 countries continue to help 32.9 million persons.
The details of the Book Bus in the UNHCR settlement
How do I get there?
What are the conditions like?
As you can imagine conditions are rather basic. Refugees use water from boreholes and wells for drinking, washing and bathing. It is advisable for visitors to carry their own drinking water, preferably bottled water. Camping facilities are rather basic but our tents are new and comfortable.
The Book Bus will be visiting from 18th June to 30th July, 2011 in two blocks of three weeks. You can join for three or six weeks. Maximum volunteer group size is 12 people.
Ask to speak to a recently returned volunteer!
Meheba: Further information
Meheba: Further information
Spending time at Meheba will be an eye opening experience;
- Some of the refugees were brought to the camp by strangers when they were children.
- The parents of one guy we spoke with had been assassinated by the government (he was son of a commander of the Angolan Rebel Force....he said he couldn't tell us his fathers name).
- Another was from Rwanda and his parents had been killed. He never wants to return there.
- There are others who have simply come because it is a guarantee for food supplies and accommodation - claiming fake refugee status.
For the Book Bus to achieve its goals at Meheba you will need patience, flexibility and a good sense of humour. For detailed information on the settlement please read on….
Meheba is situated at 75km away from Solwezi, the Provincial Headquarters of the North-Western Province.
Meheba Refugee Settlement covers a vast area of 720 sq km. It is divided into 8 Zones from A to H and into 125 roads and villages. There are 67 roads from Zone A to Zone E, and villages from 68 to 125 in Zone F, G and H.
Average Household Plot
The average household plot is 25x30 metres, The average family size is 6 persons.
Agriculture Farm plot
The average agriculture farming plot per household is 2.5 hectares.
Meheba Refugee Settlement was established in 1971 and hosts refugees from DRC, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Liberia, Namibia and Malawi. At its peak, in May 2003, the refugee population in Meheba was 47,670. As of January 2009 the refugee population is 15,798. Apart from the Angolans, repatriation has also provided a durable solution for other nationality groups in the settlement and other durable solutions such as local integration and re-settlement are also being applied.
The current population of Meheba Refugee Settlement as of January 2009 is 15,798. In addition to the Angolan refugees, Meheba also hosts refugees from other nationalities including Congolese, Rwandese, Burundians and other nationalities. The table below tabulates the statistics by nationality:
Administration of Zones
Each Zone has an elected Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, and each road and village has an elected chairperson and a secretary.
The settlement administration is based on the Tripartite Agreement between the government of Zambia, UNHCR and Implementing Partners.
Main Activity Responsibilities
In line with its mandate, UNHCR is responsible for protection (including re-settlement activities), durable solutions for the refugees, monitoring the programmes in the camp and funding refugee assistance activities implemented by UNHCR partners and government counterparts in the settlement.
The Government of Zambia (GRZ)
The Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for security and physical protection of refugees, maintaining statistics and a database on refugees in conjunction with other implementing partners and UNHCR. UNHCR and the Government of Zambia continue their protection and coordination role in the settlement. Government departments from 2006 have taken more responsibility for health, education, agriculture and water sectors in the settlement.
World Food Programme (WFP)
Based on a Memorandum of Understanding signed by WFP and UNHCR. WFP is responsible for the provision of food to refugees. Each refugee according to WFP standards receives 600 grams of food daily, which is equivalent to 2100 kilocalories. The ration consists of cereals (maize or sorghum) 450g, pulses (beans) 120g, cooking oil 20g and salt 10g. When certain food items are not readily available for distribution to refugees, WFP has always compensated by providing other food items e.g. sorghum. WFP also provides enroute rations and wet feeding at transit centres during repatriation.
As a policy food is only distributed to the vulnerable persons and new arrivals that have not completed two harvesting seasons and then get removed from the distribution list after the assessment that they became self-sufficient in food production. Only the vulnerable refugees and new arrivals are receiving food rations from WFP.
The main UNHCR implementing partners in Meheba are:
- Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS)
- Department of Water Affairs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Education
- Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS):
MCDSS took over the sectoral responsibilities of Community Services, Education HIV/AIDS awareness and sensitization and SGBV in July 2007.
a). Community Services
The focus of community services is to strengthen community traditional care systems for the vulnerable like the elderly, unaccompanied minors and the handicapped. In particular initiating special programmes to ensure that the aged in TC 44 are integrated/reintegrated into the community traditional care system. Further, MCDSS supports self reliance activities like income generation.
The other responsibility of MCDSS is to provide vocational training to the refugee community.
The community is sensitized on HIV/AIDs through meetings and IEC materials. Information on HIV/AIDS mainly targets adults and youth groups who receive information on HIV/AIDS/STI prevention, care support to people living with HIV/AIDS, condom use, voluntary counseling and testing in the community.
d). Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV)
SGBV cases are reported to MCDSS, police, RO, Health and UNHCR through community leaders and the neighborhood watch. The SGBV Task force comprising COR,Refugee representatives, Forge, Police, UNHCR and all IPs has a monitoring role in the area of SGBV and coordinates sensitization activities and ensures that the referral mechanism is communicated to the community.
e). Non Food Items (NFIs)
MCDSS distributes non-food items such as plastic sheets, blankets, soap, jerry cans, clothes and kitchen sets are distributed to all new arrivals and vulnerable. Agriculture tools such as hoes, axes etc are in-adequate to promote agriculture and self-sufficiency, which eventually causes the difficulty to remove some of the refugees from the food distribution list after two years. MCDSS also distributes 4metres chitenge material as sanitary assistance to the women.
Department of Water Affairs (DWA)
DWA has been operating in Meheba settlement since 2002. It has been running the Water and Sanitation Project whose roles and responsibilities range from construction, rehabilitation, maintenance of all water points in the settlement as well as the provision of good sanitation through health and sanitation education.
a). Water Sector
The water officer supervises pump minders, who carry out the following activities:
- Construction of water points (boreholes and wells)
- Rehabilitation and repairing of water points
- Carrying out water quality test
Currently there are 388 protected water points, 315 drinking water points and 44 people per drinking water point.
b). Sanitation Sector
The sanitation officer supervises 10 community health workers who are distributed in each zone and they conduct the following activities:
- Working in conjunction with the Village Water and Sanitation Health Education committees (V-WASHE), which comprises 6 members at every water point
- Carrying out adequate Health Education on water, sanitation and hygiene in all zones
- Chlorination exercise in the zones
- Base survey
- Submitting reports to the head of field team
There are 1103 refuse pits, 1109 dish racks, 2330 latrines and 6 people per latrine.
Ministry of Health (MOH)
Ministry of Health provides health services. There are 6 health centres in the settlement and they are involved in offering of both preventive and curative health services. The health programmes currently in place are:
a) Extended Programme on Immunization (EPI)
All clinics are conducting both growth monitoring and immunization of children under 5. These are done simultaneously in under-5 clinics, which are held at an appointed day in the week as well as during Outreach Programme.
b) Tuberculosis Programme
In this programme patients receive curative and supportive care. All patients receive full treatment and HEPS supplied by WFP.
The programme is growing and doing well. There are VCT centres in all clinics. Testing for HIV is done at Clinic A laboratory. Patients are referred for further investigation and management of ARVs at Solwezi General Hospital.
d) Reproductive Health
All six clinics in the settlement conduct Reproductive Health activities including deliveries, antenatal and post-natal care and family planning, combating sexually transmitted diseases.
Beneficiaries of the Supplementary Feeding Programme are mostly under-5 children who are underweight captured during under-5 and Outreach programs.
f) OPD activities
Mostly deal with consultations. The commonest causes of morbidity remains to be Malaria, respiratory track infection and diarrhea.
g) IPD activities
Malaria, respiratory tract infection and diarrhea remain to be the highest cause of admission to the clinics.
h) Emergency Referrals
Maternity and trauma cases are the largest causes for referrals to Solwezi General Hospital. Other causes of referral are anemic patients who need blood transfusion, dental cases and surgical cases.
Ministry of Education
There are 5 basic schools and one high secondary school. The schools are run by the Ministry of Education.Community schools. There are 9 community schools in different zones of the settlement. Currently there are 16 Community School Teachers; however recruitment of some # more teachers is ongoing.
Ministry of Agriculture
Agriculture plots of 2.5 hectares for each family are allocated to refugees to aid food self sufficiency. Seeds, farming tools and technical advice are provided to the refugees, however the supply of agriculture tools is not that adequate. Refugees in Meheba produce maize, cassava, groundnut, Soya beans, rice and sweet potato. In addition to agriculture and farming activities, refugees are also involved in other income generating activities including fish farms and bee-keeping.
Other Operating Agencies
- International Crescent of Red Cross Zambia (ICRC) - ICRC is responsible for tracing refugee families, parents or relatives of unaccompanied minors / elders.
- Saint Mary’s Mission in Meheba - Spiritual, moral and material support to refugees – home base care for HIV/AIDS infected refugees, caring for orphans and vulnerable children (scholarships, school uniforms, school study kits) food and clothes.
The cost of a 3 week placement is £ 890* (€ 1.010) plus a local payment of $ 450* (€ 310).
The cost of a 6 week placement is £ 1.415* (€ 1.610) plus a local payment of $ 900* (€ 620).
* Exchange rate of April, 2011
- Airport transfers (If arriving and departing on Saturday)
- 7 nights accommodation per week
- 3 meals a day
- An experienced leader with back-up communications
- 24 hour support
- full pre-departure support and advice including the Book Bus Field Manual.
- International flights
- Optional activities
- Vaccinations and immunisations
- Personal expenditure
VentureCo Worldwide, in close cooperation with Mambulu!, manage the Book Bus Volunteer Crew recruitment process. They are hugely experienced in gap year travel, mounting expeditions and placing people into overseas charity projects. This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of a great adventure and to help inspire in children a love of books that will serve them and their communities well. We look forward to welcoming you on board the Book Bus. Visit VentureCo Wordlwide>>
About the Founder of the Book Bus
Tom Maschler was a publisher for over four decades. While still in his twenties he ran Jonathan Cape, where he published no fewer than thirteen Nobel Prize winners. He nurtured the careers of many of the Twentieth Century's most esteemed authors, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan, Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl and Bruce Chatwin. He also came up with the idea for the Booker Prize, now acknowledged as the most significant fiction prize in the world.