By Andrew Ssenyonga
The Commissioner of Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has said the rising influx of refugees coming to Uganda may cause problems.
David Kazungu said the country hosts over 234,000 refugees and of those 65 per cent have just crossed from Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
“Many Congolese refugees have crossed into Uganda in recent days following fighting between rebel groups. Their arrival has left the government and humanitarian agencies struggling to meet the refugees' needs amidst funding challenges.
“The situation is very dire. It's overwhelming... given the massive arrivals of these refugees, and sudden number of this nature, in an area with very limited preparedness to extend humanitarian assistance,” he said.
He sounded the concern during the official commissioning of offices of the department of the refugees on Sir Apollo Kaggwa road in Kampala.
State minister for relief and disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru said they also face a challenge of land grabbing in areas gazetted for refugee settlement.
“The land government allocated to help settle the refugees when they come into the country in most areas has been either encroached on or grabbed by the locals. So this leaves the ministry with lack of adequate land to settle the incoming refugees,” revealed the minister.
He said the refugee department lacks the necessary infrastructure to support the huge influx of the current scale.
“The villages were empty. They didn’t have any facilities. We are putting up water systems, sanitation, shelter, education, health facilities and providing food which is all at a cost,” said Ecweru.
“We appeal for financial assistance from donors and international community to support this huge influx of refugees. The international community and donors have a responsibility to help Uganda share this burden,” he said.
He added that they face difficulties relocating incoming refugees to a newly established transit centre because most of them don’t like the idea of the camps.
“They are currently occupying schools, churches, people’s gardens, verandas, and causing tremendous problems for the host community,” he noted.
Mohammed Adar, country representative for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Uganda said the refugees are in dire need of humanitarian assistance and relief services.
“While food and supplies are in place, the huge numbers of people and their wide distribution has made it difficult to provide services. The main concerns at this point are water, health and sanitation, and education at some centres,” said Adar.