UNHCR opens new refugee settlement in Arua

UNHCR airlifts aid to Uganda
UNHCR airlifts aid to Uganda as thousands arrive from South Sudan. Courtesy Photo/UNHCR.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has opened a new settlement area in Arua district, northern Uganda to host thousands of refugees arriving from South Sudan.

The new Imvepi Settlement was opened after Palorinya settlement in Moyo district, which was opened in December 2016, rapidly reached its 135,000 refugee-hosting capacity.

A total of 9,568 South Sudanese refugees were received in Uganda between the 15th and 21st of February according to UNHCR’s Operational Update on the South Sudan Refugee Emergency. This brings the total new arrivals in February to 56,087 with an average of 1,367 daily arrivals this week.

Relocation of new arrivals to Imvepi settlement commenced on February 21, with 996 refugees relocated to the reception centre on the first day. More than 2,000 South Sudanese refugees have already made Imvepi their new home in the last two days. The settlement area is expected to accommodate up to 110,000 new arrivals who will flee to Uganda in the weeks and months ahead.

In line with Uganda’s progressive approach to asylum, they will live side by side with members of the Ugandan host community.  Upon arrival, refugees from South Sudan receive a plot of land on which to build their new homes and grow crops. Refugees additionally are free to access public services such as healthcare and education.

“UNHCR highly commends the generosity of the host community in Imvepi, who have come together to donate the land on which the settlement will be hosted. This gesture is an exceptional display of solidarity with people who have been forced to leave everything behind due to war and conflict,” Charles Yaxley the spokesperson of UNHCR in Uganda said in a statement.

He says that in recognition of the additional strain being placed on local services, and of the generosity of host communities, around 30 percent of the resources of the humanitarian response goes towards benefiting host communities.

This is typically realized through improvements to local infrastructure that that not only bolsters the capacity to assist the refugees, but is also carried out in a way that continues to benefit Ugandans even after its safe for the refugees to return home.

More than 1.5 million South Sudanese refugees have fled to neighboring countries in the region, around half of which are located in Uganda. More than two-thirds of South Sudanese refugees living in Uganda have arrived since the outbreak of violence in Juba in July 2016.

South Sudan is now Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the world’s third after Syria and Afghanistan – with less attention and chronic levels of under-funding.

– Uganda Radio Network