10 May 2017

Uganda Struggling to Feed Refugees - Govt

Photo: Martin Okudi/Daily Monitor
Some of the South Sudan refugees at Bidibidi Settlement Camp.

Kampala — With more than 2,000 South Sudanese refugees pouring into Uganda every day, plus another 1.2 million already in the country, the government and aid agencies are struggling to feed the numbers.

Uganda is currently ranked as the second-largest refugee-hosting country in the world after Turkey with the World Food Programme estimating Uganda's monthly food requirement for the refugees at about $12m (about Shs43b).

Uganda Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said although the government has spent about Shs544b, its resource envelope is overstretched, saying the country would be seeking more funding during the refugee solidarity summit set for June 22 to June 23 in Kampala in order to cater for the refugees and host communities.

Dr Rugunda said despite the resource challenges, Uganda has an "incredibly progressive" approach to asylum and provides refugees with plots of land for settlement and farming close by the Ugandan host communities.

He said in 2016, the government and the UN each spent Shs544b in responding to the needs of the refugees and host communities in 12 districts but that the funding is inadequate given the daily average influx of 2,000 refugees.

"These huge numbers are placing a huge strain on our stressed ability to cater for their food, water, healthcare and education of the refugees and host communities and that is why we are calling for a solidarity summit on refugees to drum for more funding," said Dr Rugunda.

He said government has commenced preparations for the high level solidarity conference that is expected to attract key international organisations in an attempt to drum up support and mobilise resources for the thousands of refugees in Uganda.

The refugee solidarity conference will be jointly hosted by President Museveni and the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.

"It is a crisis and the international community must come together with their resources and expertise to ensure the humanitarian appeals are fully funded and also to explore the reasons why people are fleeing in the first place," Dr Rugunda added.

Mr Hillary Onek, the Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees minister, consented there was a refugee crisis and that this was impacting negatively on the host communities and the economy of Uganda.

He said the government of Uganda and UN refugee agency UNHCR are collaborating with humanitarian organisations to coordinate the refugee response at border entry points and are providing clean water and medical screenings and examining children for malnutrition, and providing high-energy biscuits.

Ms Rosa Malango, the UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative, said they were working on a programme to integrate host communities through implementing the Refugee and Host population Empowerment [ReHope] strategy in partnership with the World Bank.

She said the summit is to support and strengthen Uganda's progressive and transformative approach to refugee protection through mobilising new funding to meet the ever increasing cost of humanitarian and long-term needs of the growing number of refugees and supporting host communities.

In a related event, Uganda will host the Third Pan African Forum on Migration (PAFoM) scheduled for May 15 to 17 at Speke Resort Munyonyo, under the theme: "Towards a Common African Position on the Global Compacts on Migration and on Refugees."

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