Roundup: UN says refugee situation in Uganda dire as world marks refugee day

KAMPALA, June 20– As the world commemorates the annual World Refugee Day Monday, the UN refuge agency here warned that the refugee crisis in Uganda is worsening amid increased conflicts in the region and reduced international financing of refugee affairs. UNHCR office here says only 8 percent of the 48- million-U.S. dollar emergency appeal for the refugee…

by Ronald Ssekandi

KAMPALA, June 20 (Xinhua) — As the world commemorates the annual World Refugee Day Monday, the UN refuge agency here warned that the refugee crisis in Uganda is worsening amid increased conflicts in the region and reduced international financing of refugee affairs.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Uganda Joel Boutroue described the situation as dire, according to a tweet by his office Monday.

“We may not be in a position anymore to finance the 4,000 plus teachers and 3,000-4,000 health workers we are paying. That is the situation,” Boutroue said.

UNHCR office here says only 8 percent of the 48-million-U.S. dollar emergency appeal for the refugee response in Uganda has been received. Humanitarian agencies in the East African country in April made the appeal to cover a three-month initial urgent response for an influx of up to 60,000 refugees.

Relief agencies said the funds were needed to provide urgent assistance to new arrivals, mainly women and children in dire need of protection.

The appeal came at a time when Uganda’s response to more than 1.5 million refugees in the country is critically underfunded. An interagency report said as of the end of March, only 41 million dollars had been received against the country’s refugee response plan of 804 million dollars in funding needs for 2022.

Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the third in the world after Turkey and Colombia, according to UNHCR figures.

The refugee situation has since worsened in recent weeks after fighting erupted in the neighboring eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), forcing thousands of Congolese to seek refuge in Uganda.

Uganda Red Cross Society said the recent influx was overwhelming the provision of social amenities in the host communities.

Esther Anyakun, the minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, said that while Uganda continues to be a haven of safety and security for thousands of people fleeing conflict, the international community equally has to play its role in sharing the burden.

“This growing refugee population serves as a reminder that we must find long-term solutions to the world’s conflicts and assist countries grappling with the refugee crisis,” a statement from Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister said.

Boutroue, the UN Refugee Agency chief here, has previously argued that Uganda’s asylum policy must continue to be supported generously. The country has an open-door refugee policy where refugees are allowed to work, cultivate the land they have been given and move freely.

The rapid dwindling of resources has led to multiple cuts in food rations since April 2020, with some refugees receiving only 40 percent of their survival food basket, according to the UN World Food Program (WFP).

“We must build strong partnerships to effectively respond to the needs of refugees and make sure no one goes hungry,” said Abdirahman Meygag, the WFP Uganda country director.

Francis Iwa, the executive director of Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants, a local nongovernmental organization, said that while the world’s attention is on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the eastern DRC crisis needs urgent attention. Failure to do so, according to Iwa, the world would face another humanitarian catastrophe, which could have been prevented if acted upon earlier.

East African Community (EAC) member countries are now gathering support to address the recent fighting between the Congolese troops and M23 rebels who overwhelmed the government forces and took over the border town of Bunagana. The fighting also comes amid a diplomatic spat between DRC and Rwanda with DRC accusing Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels. Rwanda has denied the allegations.

EAC states are working on deploying a military force in eastern DRC that will fight negative forces that have failed to enter negotiations with the Congolese government.

Regional leaders on Monday gathered in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to discuss the DRC crisis. Enditem

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