Aid cuts driving refugees to despair

When Samuel Paul, 67, arrived in Uganda with his wife and children after fleeing from South Sudan, he had nothing but the clothes he was wearing.

Helping him settle in and sustain his family were the monthly food rations from the World Food Programme (WFP). These rations of corn flour, beans and cooking oil were a lifeline for Samuel and countless others in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement. 

The rations helped Samuel for several years. But now, a dramatic shortage of funding has forced WFP to cut back on food rations for refugees in Bidi Bidi.

For Samuel, this reduction in assistance has had devastating consequences. He now struggles every day to put food on the table for his wife and four children. He has been forced to search for alternative ways to feed his family and sometimes depends on the kindness of his neighbours who share what little they have. 

"My heart aches every time I see my children go to bed hungry," Samuel says. "I never thought I would have to watch them suffer like this."

Lack of support for older people

Older refugees like Samuel face particular hardships. Many of them have experienced trauma, loss, and displacement, which can take a toll on their physical and mental wellbeing.

They often struggle with the limited access to healthcare in the settlement, and face mobility difficulties due to age-related ailments like backache and arthritis. This makes it hard for them to engage in farming to sustain their livelihoods. The lack of specialised support for older people exacerbates their vulnerability, leaving them even more isolated and marginalised. 

For people like Samuel, the dire situation may even force them to return to their home countries, despite the ongoing risk of conflict and danger. 

"Our situation is very bad, and it is going to force very many people to go back home, even if the war is still going on there,” says Samuel. “And they may even be better off dying there than dying of hunger here."