Uganda: Water Crisis Hits Refugee Camps

People line up at a borehole at Kiryandongo refugee settlement camp during a water crisis that hit the region in November last year.
19 February 2019

Refugees in different settlements in the West Nile districts are struggling to access clean water as drought takes toll on the area. Long queues form at the water points as they struggle to access water from taps.

The refugee welfare officer at Ofua Six settlement in Imvepi, Mr Isaac Ayume, said the situation right now is terrible. He said women and children spend hours waiting for water as the lines are long.

Mary Candiru, a 62-year-old grandmother of six children, says it’s a huge struggle for her. Ms Candiru says they wakeup early with the grandchildren to go and fetch water, and later the children go to school, two kilometres away.

Several other women at Imvepi settlement say the situation is creating tension between them and their husbands because they spend hours at the water points. At Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Yumbe District, the situation is not different.

When we visited the water points, long queues also formed at the water point, with women looking dejected while waiting for their turns to fill.  Ms Joyce Jokudu, a 20-year-old mother of two, says the problem started in November when the dry season set in. She says they have been struggling and they are not sure when the access to water will improve.

At Palorinya refugee settlement, residents went up in arms against the Uganda Red Cross when the officials started dismantling water treatment plants in the area. After the contract for the Red Cross in the area ended, officials started dismantling the treatment plant, but the residents combined with the refugees and chased away the officials.

The plant was reportedly constructed by another NGO who left it under the care of the Red Cross. The Obongi County Member of Parliament, Mr Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, said the decision by Red Cross to dismantle the treatment point was unfortunate and in bad faith.

He said they knew they were not the ones who constructed the treatment plant and wondered why they wanted to remove it.
Officials from both the UNHCR and Uganda Red Cross are yet to respond on how they will address the water crisis in the resettlement camps.

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