Congolese refugees wait in line to receive households items such as blankets at Kagoma Reception Centre, Uganda - some have waited over a month. Meanwhile, thousands more continue to arrive in Uganda. Around 4,500 Congolese refugees are currently staying here, waiting to receive plots of land for temporary settlement and household items. The conditions in the centre are difficult and extremely overcrowded. Chronic under-funding of the Congolese refugee response has led to many gaps in assistance. Photo: Dwyer/NRC

Congolese refugees fleeing to Uganda nearly double to 8,000 in past month

Published 02. Jul 2019
Thousands are crossing Lake Albert by boat to Uganda, escaping horrific inter-ethnic violence. Refugee reception centres are being overwhelmed, as emergency aid is running short.

Desperate Congolese families are fleeing to safety across the border any way they can. Over 3,000 refugees crossed into Uganda via boat along Lake Albert’s eastern shore in the past month. While this appears to be the most effective method of escape, border crossings by vehicle and on foot are also ongoing in the Kisoro, Kanungu and Bundibugyo districts of western Uganda.

Refugee reception centres in Uganda are being overwhelmed by the new influx. In the previous month, the average number of daily refugee arrivals was 145 per day. Since then, the number of refugee arrivals more than doubled to 302 per day.

“With this new upsurge in refugee arrivals, we strongly urge donor agencies and the international community to scale up their support for refugees in Uganda. Arriving refugees urgently need shelter, food, clean water and sanitation. With more donor funding, more lives will be saved,” says Melchizedek Malile, Acting Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).  

The 2019 Refugee Response Plan for Uganda is asking for $1.03 billion for humanitarian aid, but only $147 million for humanitarian programmes has been funded to date. Previous funding shortages in Uganda have led to the closure of life-saving programmes. Without increased aid, programmes will fall short for critical needs such as food, shelter, clean water and medical care.

As Europe and the USA continue to turn away refugees and asylum seekers, Uganda continues to accept them. The small landlocked country currently hosts almost 1.3 million refugees, with most of them from South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi.

“Uganda has some of the most progressive refugee laws and policies in the world yet their request for more aid falls on deaf ears, and aid appeals continue to be grossly under-funded. Wealthier nations need to act on their pledges of responsibility-sharing. Countries like Uganda are struggling to cope as best they can, and they urgently need resources to reduce the suffering of desperate refugees,” added Malile.