16 July 2013

Uganda: DRC War - Bundibugyo in Chaos No Food, Water or Toilets for Refugees

Photo: Pete Muller/Amnesty
A young girl sweeps her family compound in the Yida refugee camp, South Sudan, April 2012.

The raging war and instability in DR Congo that have displaced thousands of people illustrates the country's politics which promote violence, the minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hilary Onek, has said.

"If a country's politics promote violence, there will be chaos and this is why Uganda is trying to nurture democracy," he told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre today.

On July 11, the western district of Bundibugyo, which borders eastern DRC, reported an influx of refugees from Congo fleeing the fighting between the government and the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) after it overrun the border town of Kamago.

By July 15, some 65,000 refugees had been registered by the Uganda Red Cross Society. Currently, the refugees are camping at Bubandi, Karela, Isonga and Kisaru primary schools and Bubandi sub-county headquarter land. However, the conditions at these centres are pathetic. There's inadequate water, food and poor road access. At Bubandi primary school, there's one latrine block with four stances and the 10,000 litre water tank is non-functional.

Karela primary school has two latrine blocks with three stances each and two 10,000 litre water tanks that are non-functional. The road access to the school is difficult. Isonga primary school has no water tank.

To address some of these challenges, a 10,000 litre water bowser and mobile toilets have been dispatched by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) while the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has erected 500 family tents and is registering and cooking for the refugees.

Initially, 54 tonnes of food was dispatched and delivered by World Food Program (WFP) enough to feed 20,000 people for five days. More food has since been dispatched together with cooking utensils for communal cooking.

On health interventions, Onek said the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) had deployed two medical doctors and confirmed that no disease outbreak had been reported.

"Government has also established a transit centre at Bubukwanga sub-county land, five kilometres from Bundibugyo town towards Fort Portal and Uganda Prisons has availed temporary settlement on the prisons farmland," he said adding that the refugee population will have to be moved to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement within three weeks.

The establishment of additional shelters, water sources, communal kitchens, start-up vaccination for under-five-year-olds and support to existing health centres need to be urgently undertaken according to Onek.

David Apollo Kazungu, the commissioner for refugees in the Office of the Prime Officer, said repatriation of refugees to DRC has been currently been halted. Before the recent influx of refugees in Bundibudyo, Uganda was already hosting more than 210,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, 63% of who originate from the DRC.

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