A new refugee camp has been officially launched by the IJF in Zambia ©IJF

A new refugee camp programme has been officially launched by the International Judo Federation (IJF) in Maheba in Zambia, located 13 hours by road from capital city Lusaka.

The settlement is home to nearly 20,000 refugees from nine African countries, 10,000 of which are children from displaced families.

The programme has already been in operation for several weeks, according to the IJF, but it has now been officially opened following a "vibrant and exciting" ceremony.

During the event, the IJF offered equipment, such as tatami and judogi, to enable an extension of the refugee programme in Maheba.

Participants will be included within the Zambia Judo Association's (ZJA) activities, ensuring they are given further opportunities to rebuild a new life.

The IJF said a number of those involved with the project pointed to the success of the refugee team which competed at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a reason for hope for the future.

"We have seen the number of refugees rising and the implications of this scourge on peace and security should concern all of us," ZJA President Alfred Foloko said.

"Therefore, the initiative by the International Judo Federation to come with this important project cannot be over emphasised."

The camp is located 13 hours by road from Zambia's capital ©IJF
The camp is located 13 hours by road from Zambia's capital ©IJF

He added: "The main objective of the judo launch at Maheba refugee settlement is to promote peace and unity among the different nationalities and the surrounding communities.

"We use judo as an education tool to bring about peace and unity among different people regardless of their political, gender, cultural, religious affiliation.

"By training judo and follow the statement done by Jigoro Kano, the founder of our sport, a person will develop social skills that can be used to develop just society and help person in need."

The establishment of the programme in Zambia comes after the IJF launched a similar development project in the Kilis refugee camps on the Syrian/Turkish border last year.

More than 130,000 refugees have been rescued in the Kilis region - which is more than the local population - but judo has brought some joy into the life of youngsters who are otherwise coping with severe hardships.

"I would like to commend the International Judo Federation and the Zambia Judo Association for organising such an important project," National Sports Council of Zambia representative Chabi Chondoka added.

"This is a deliberate initiative to get more of our friends from war affected neighbouring countries come together to promote peace through sport."