Uganda Has Capacity to Handle Refugee Influx - OPM

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In short
Uganda recorded an inflow of 55,920 South Sudan refugees in less than two weeks after fighting erupted between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar.

Uganda still has the capacity to handle more refugees despite the influx arising out of latest clashes in South Sudan, The Commissioner for Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister, David Kazungu says.

The country registered an inflow of 55,920 South Sudan refugees in less than two weeks after fighting erupted between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar.

The new arrivals drove the number of refugees in the country to 600,000, making Uganda the second largest refugee hosting country in Africa after Ethiopia with 736,000 refugees. Uganda's Eastern neighbors Kenya host 594,000 refugees.

Most of the refugees in Uganda are from South Sudan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Somalia among others. They are hosted in 10 gazetted settlements in Rwamwanja, Nakivale, Kyangwali, Kyaka, Kampala, Koboko, Oruchinga, Rhino refugee camp, Kiryandongo and Adjumani.

Each refugee in Uganda is entitled to a 50 by 50 plot of land for cultivation and settlement, materials for construction of a shelter and daily food rations for a period of at least one year. They are also integrated to access health care and education with the community they live in. They have a right to work and do business but also have freedom of movement.

David Kazungu says that Uganda can host an additional 300,000 refugees without exhausting its capacity. He says in Yumbe district, a refugee camp has for instance just been opened and it is expected to host 100,000 refugees.

Government has budgeted 42 million US Dollars for the refugee crisis.  However, only half of this has been secured according to Kazungu. The money is to cover the cost of food, water and sanitation as well as supporting health and education activities.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees - UNHCR, rapid opening of the newly identified settlement area in Yumbe district, decongesting the reception and transit centres, increasing coverage of health and nutrition staff, expansion of water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and services and procurement of medical drugs and supplies are key priorities for the period of Oct-Dec 2016.

UNHCR Associate External relations Officer Charlie Yaxley says that with its political motivation and reception to refugees, Uganda should be in position to secure adequate support from the international community. He says that lifesaving assistance to refugees is directly threatened because of funding.

Cabinet this week deferred a loan presented by the Ministry of Finance on refugee hosting areas support.  The loan amounting to 50 million US Dollars is to finance and support the development response to  refugee hosting districts and communities. 

 

About the author

Alex Otto
“Journalism that changes lives is my goal,” Alex Otto has said on more than one occasion. That is his career’s guiding principle. Has been since he was a radio journalist in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu in 2009.

Otto passionately believes his journalism should bring to the fore the voices of the voiceless like the shooting victims of Apaa. Otto tries in his journalism to ask tough questions to those in positions of authority.

Based in the Kampala bureau, Otto is especially interested in covering agriculture, politics, education, human rights, crime, environment and business. He has reported intensively on the post-conflict situation in northern Uganda.

A URN staff member since 2014, Otto previously worked with The Observer Newspaper from 2012 to 2013 and later the Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR based in Gulu.

He was the URN Gulu bureau chief 2014-2016.