Operation: Opération: Malawi



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
870 new refugee and asylum-seeker births were registered and issued with birth certificates
434 refugees were submitted for third-country resettlement
100% of refugees and asylum-seekers (48,270) had access to primary health care
80% of refugees and asylum-seekers (38,616) had access to clean water
46% of primary school-aged refugee children (4,768 including 2,292 girls) were enrolled in primary education
17% of refugees and asylum-seekers (2,839) in the Dzaleka camp extension sites were provided with new and improved shelters
9% of refugees and asylum-seekers (800) benefitted from various livelihood interventions
2021 planning figures
200 people of concern with requisite skills will be granted work permits by the Government of Malawi
15 litres litres of water per person per day will be provided in the Dzaleka refugee camp
50% of refugee children will be enrolled in early childhood development (pre-schools), 60% in primary education and 30% in secondary education
50% of camp-based refugees will have household toilet facilities
17% of people of concern will have new improved shelter

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 48,277
2019 44,622
2018 37,244


[["Refugees",14897],["Asylum-seekers",33136],["Others of concern",244]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[14.05602103,18.11807959,17.50133613,15.392054589999999,21.593587890000002,19.499902],"expenditure":[5.68901108,6.878981860000001,7.71311785,10.45044511,13.57553095,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[14.05602103,18.11807959,17.50133613,13.19496359,21.593587890000002,19.499902],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,2.197091,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[5.68901108,6.878981860000001,7.71311785,8.84209521,13.57553095,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,1.6083498999999999,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

Pending the adoption of the Global Refugee Forum pledges and the roadmap for implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), UNHCR continued to provide technical and financial support to the Government and NGO partners in a year in which the COVID-19 heavily impacted the country’s economy.

The Government has an encampment policy that restricts refugees from certain rights, including access to tertiary education and employment opportunities. The Dzaleka refugee camp hosted more than 48,028 refugees and asylum-seekers as of the end of 2020. Originally established to host 10,000 people of concern to UNHCR, the camp is congested and overcrowded, with that congestion impacting access to clean water and sanitation services, general well-being and livelihoods opportunities.

Population trends

At the end of 2020, there were 48,028 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malawi (15,454 households), mainly in Dzaleka refugee camp (45.5% women and 49.6% children).

In 2020, Malawi registered 2,013 new arrivals and 1,686 new-born babies compared to 7,123 individuals in 2019. The lower number of new arrivals was in large part due to COVID-19 restrictions which reduced the number of new arrivals, rather than to improvements in the situations in countries of origin.

Key achievements

  • A COVID-19 quarantine, isolation and treatment centre was constructed in the Dzaleka camp in coordination with the Government and local partners.
  • A 25 ha solar powered irrigation scheme was completed, supporting the agricultural production of 50 refugee households in Dzaleka refugee camp and 50 host community households.
  • 200 participants graduated from the Graduation Approach livelihoods programme and received start-up kits.
  • 1,800 refugee households involved in agricultural production received 50kg fertilizer and 2kg of hybrid maize from the Government as part of an inclusive national programme targeting 96,000 extremely poor households nationwide.
  • 439 shelter units were under construction at New Katubza, a new site for 500 refugee families. In total, 223 units were completed in 2020.
  • Refugee schools benefitted from the COVID-19 Accelerated Grant Fund administered by the Ministry of Education and received support for continuous learning and school re-opening. 78 primary teachers were trained by the Ministry of Education; primary and secondary school students were given access to online learning amid COVID-19 school closures; and reading materials were printed and provided to refugee schools by the Ministry.  
  • Health care for refugees and asylum-seekers is integrated into the national health system. Despite funding shortfalls  Dzaleka health center served approximately 80,000 people, including 60% from the surrounding host community.

Unmet needs

  • Delays in the adoption of a CRRF roadmap by the CRRF Steering Committee postponed the inclusion of refugees into national development plans and prevented them seeking formal employment.
  • Underfunding affected most interventions in Dzaleka camp aimed at addressing basic needs. Interventions that could improve the self-reliance of refugees, such as livelihoods and education, had significant funding gaps. Only 9% benefitted from livelihoods interventions. Due to classroom space shortages only 6.6% (300 out of 4,557) pre-school aged refugee children had access to standard early childhood education.
  • The Dzaleka health centre was initially meant to serve a population of 10,000 people but it is currently assisting 80,000 people, 60% of whom are from the host community.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

  • The development of New Katubza site is in progress. Out of the planned 500 family shelters, 223 shelters were completed and occupied by refugee families.
  • 200 Graduation Approach participants graduated after taking active part in various livelihoods interventions over 18 months and received start-up kits.

Working environment

Malawi has enjoyed a stable and democratic government since the end of the one party regime in 1993. However, the results of the elections held in May 2019 are being contested in the constitutional court by two major opposition political parties.
Malawi is faced with recurring floods and droughts impacting food security. In March 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai hit displaced some 87,000 people and affected nearly 870,000 in Malawi. As part of the collective UN system response, UNHCR deployed an emergency team, provided core relieve items and return packages to affected persons and co-led the Protection Cluster.
Refugees and asylum-seekers are mainly hosted in Dzaleka Camp close to capital Lilongwe. The camp, initially built to host only 10,000 refugees, is currently hosting over 42,000 people of concern. The arrival of an average 450 new asylum-seekers every month is exacerbating conditions in the camp even further. The Government has supported the expansion of the camp with additional land and staffing.
In 2019, the Government adopted prima facie determination for Congolese asylum-seekers originating from North and South Kivu as well as from Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is expected that the number of new asylum-seekers particularly from the DRC will continue to steadily increase in 2020.
The National Registration Bureau has announced plans to register and issue identity cards to 25,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.
The Government of Malawi has expressed strong interest in rolling out the CRRF. The inclusion of refugees has also been included in the Malawi Growth Development Strategy (MGDS III) 2017-2022 and in the UNDAF 2019-2022. UNHCR works closely with several line ministries, the UN system, NGO partners and private sector in Malawi.

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Providing the Government with technical support in the implementation of CRRF roll out plan/roadmap;
  • Inclusion of refugees and asylum-seekers in the national health and education services;
  • Improving access to education in Dzaleka Camp by constructing new primary schools and recruiting additional teachers;
  • Decongestion of Dzaleka Camp through relocation of refugees and asylum-seekers to new sites identified by the Government;
  • Achieving self-reliance of people of concern through enhancing livelihood activities;
  • Financial inclusion of people of concern with the support of private sector partnerships. In 2018, New Finance Bank launched the first ever bank branch in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. The initiative has had a positive social effect on the refugees and surrounding host community.
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 24-NOV-2021
  • Germany
  • 23-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 22-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • Japan

    private donors

  • 18-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Argentina
  • Romania
  • Qatar
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 17-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 15-NOV-2021
    United Arab Emirates

    private donors

  • 12-NOV-2021
  • 11-NOV-2021
  • Angola
  • 09-NOV-2021
  • 08-NOV-2021
  • Hungary