Uganda currently hosts over 1,2 million refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from South Sudan and DRC.. Every day between 1000 and 2000 refugees arrive in the country, straining the humanitarian response and host community resources.
Next week, United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, will join forces with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni hosting The Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees, to address the increasing needs and mobilise funds for continued support to the ongoing emergency.
“The needs for basic aid such as food, shelter, water and sanitation are very high and unmet. Although organisations on the ground are quick to mobilise and the authorities are supportive and friendly towards refugees, the funding is low and pressure on local resources is high”, explains CashCap expert Stephen Njoroge.
He currently works in Imvepi, Yumbe and Bidibidi settlements in the northern region of Uganda, not far from the border to South Sudan and DRC. According to Njoroge, the cash-based interventions and cash transfer programming have grown rapidly in the last six months, with more partners and activities supporting the emergency response.
Njoroge is deployed to Action Contre la Faim (ACF), and is responsible for coordinating activities with other cash actors. There are cash working groups on both national and field levels.
“We have a cash for work project to build more latrines and we provide seed vouchers for livelihood support. In addition we support nutrition for malnourished children under five, pregnant and lactating mothers. With vouchers for fresh food, they can diversify their diets”, he says.
Insufficient aid to most vulnerable groups
NORCAP currently has six experts in Uganda, working with UNHCR and other agencies, as well as a senior gender advisor (GenCap) hosted by UNDP. The experts are contributing to an improved response within the areas of education, protection, camp management, health and cash and markets.
According to a recent report from GenCap expert Peter Ekayu, the humanitarian response is not able to address the urgent needs of women and girls. Official UNHCR figures indicate that women and children constitute 86 percent of the refugee population. Although women-headed households represent 64 percent of all households, there is no meaningful participation of women in refugee leadership structures and service committees.
“There is a high degree of sexual and gender-based violence and significant child protection concerns. Although there is no systematic disaggregation of data by sex and age to provide meaningful gender analysis, we know that young girls are usually the most vulnerable. They are most likely to be subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, often through early marriage and abuse”, says GenCap expert Peter Ekayu.
Difficult to relocate refugees
Public Health Officer Victor Nyange is deployed to UNHCR in Lamwo. He says there is an urgent need for more space in order to relocate refugees, but host communities are reluctant to donate land. Because of this, the reception centre where he works currently hosts over 10,000 refugees instead of the intended 4000.
“We need better structures available for the refugees. Within two days we received almost 4000 refugees at the Ngomoromo border entry point. There were no systems in place, and we had to set up a makeshift health facility to deliver urgently needed water and sanitation, shelter, food and emergency health services”, he says.
Over half of children out of school
Emile Ntampera is working in Arua as an education officer. He says access to education facilities is rapidly becoming a big challenge. There are 180.000 children of preschool and school age (3 – 17 year-olds). Less than 55 percent of children currently have access to primary and secondary education, or preschool services, such as child friendly spaces or early childhood development centres.
“Numerous temporary structures need to be replaced by semi-permanent classrooms. In addition it is very difficult to maintain a good quality on teachers. The situation in South Sudan is not likely to improve in the short term, meaning that the refugee influx to Uganda will continue to increase”, he says.