Refugees appeal for more funding as services dwindle

Refugees appeal for more funding as services dwindle
Shortage of food, medical care facilities, education and land for cultivation are some of the requests refugees in Adjumani district are asking for. Courtesy Photo.

Shortage of food, medical care facilities, education and land for cultivation are some of the stories refugees in Adjumani district tell as a summit in Kampala rallies the world to do more to meet their needs.

Uganda is currently facing a huge crisis as it hosts up to 1.3 million refugees in settlements across the country, majority of them from South Sudan.

While its refugee policy is being hailed as progressive and a model for other countries, it is being stretched to the limit as 2000 new refugees enter the country daily.

The much-talked-about model offers refugees land to settle and cultivate food, rights to documentation and access to social services same as those accessed by nationals and freedom of residence among others. But the huge numbers of refugees continue to put pressure of vital resources such as land and food.

It is these, among others, that the UN-backed Solidarity Summit on Refugees will be discussing with the hope of raising sufficient resources for refugees. The situation in the refugee settlements continues to be of concern due to limited funding to cater for the influx. Adjumani district alone has to battle with 18 refugee settlements with up to 224,000 refugees, just over 17 percent of the total number of refugees living in Uganda.

Uganda needs up to 8 billion Dollars for refugees over the next four years. The solidarity conference, co-chaired by President Yoweri Museveni and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, hopes to rally the world to raise some of this money.

In Ayilo 1 and 2, which is the second largest settlement in Adjumani with over 100,000 refugees, they are complaining of a reduction in the ration of flour from six to three kilogrammes per person for the past three months, while beans remain at 1.2 kilogrammes. They claim such a ration keeps them in a hunger crisis since this is what was meant for a child per month.

John Tombwol Nuer, who fled South Sudan in 2014 and is at Ayilo, says food shortage is becoming an issue forcing many parents to send their children out of the settlements.

He says Government and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should increase the ration. Nuer says the situation is not any different in other settlements in Adjumani.

Although the community in Adjumani working with Government has given over 3,000 hectares of land for the settlement of refugees, land is now getting scarce due to the daily influx.

In Ayilo camp, some refugees say that although Government has a good gesture to give them land, the land they have now is for settlement but not cultivation.

Deng Constantine says the land given for settlement and cultivation is not enough, noting that one can barely cultivate anything.

“We appreciate it, it is helpful but when you look at a plot of 20 by 30, it really cannot help, even us who have stayed for long, we cannot sustain ourselves like this,” he said.

Dr George Didi Bhoka, the Adjumani District health officer, says the health situation is worrying. He says with only an annual budget of 360 million Shillings, they do not have the capacity to treat both the nationals and the refugees.

Before the influx of refugees, Adjumani Hospital saw 2000 out-patients, but now over 6000 people walk in daily. He says the lower health facilities are also affected.

Didi says there is no medication for half of the people who seek treatment.

Lwal Jok, a refugee says there is limited medication in the settlements coupled with hunger which makes the situation terrible. He says Government should at least struggle and provide medicine for people.

In the education sector, the child refugees are forced study from temporary structures, study in congested classes but also luck teaching materials.

Elias Ajuu Leke, an English teacher at Liberty Primary School in Ayilo 2 refugee settlement, says 628 pupils are packed in seven small classrooms. He says the food crisis forces children to miss class.

Phillip Akuku Kaya, the district education officer says the community has built temporary classrooms, but they are not enough. He says the teacher-pupil ratio is 1:100. He called on Government and donors to build more infrastructures to support refugee education.

UNHCR says it needs 569 million Dollars to handle the refugee crisis in Uganda, but it has received so far less than one quarter of that. This funding gap is what has forced the reduction of food ration, stalling of planned activities like construction of classrooms and health services for the refugees.

Titus Jogo, the refugee desk officer states that the food challenge has been partly handled as refugees are now getting six kilogrammes. He says however it is the funding gap leading to these challenges.

Jogo is hopeful that the solidarity summit in Kampala will provide answers to many of these challenges. He says the influx has crippled services and they are only working with limited resources.

The conference today is expected to raise at least two billion dollars from relief agencies, States, multilateral organisations, philanthropists and donors.