By Dennis Ojwee
The heavy influx of the South Sudanese refugees into Uganda has overwhelmed organisations that give humanitarian support at the border entrance points.
The issue was raised during an emergency security meeting between the Police and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representatives in Adjumani district on Friday.
Abraham Saga, the officer in charge of Police operations at Elegu border post, said they asked UNHCR to declare their ability so that if it is not enough, the Government of Uganda finds ways to help.
A refugee from Jonglei State, Char Koch, said he was not sure when they would be transported to their final settlement centres as they had not been registered since they entered Uganda Elegu last Thursday.
He said refugees who entered on Friday morning had been taken to Adjumani before those who arrived at the border earlier, adding that they had with them sick and old mothers.
Koch said they had no food, water, shelter and medicine and were exhausted because of walking long distances. Saga, who rushed to the border post on Thursday, said they had resolved to request the Inspector General of Police for quick intervention, especially the sending of Police trucks to ferry thousands of refugees from Elegu to the national gazetted reception centre at Pakele in Adjumani.
According to Interpol in South Sudan, Saga said, nearly 10,000 refugees had entered Uganda by Thursday and about 25,000 more were expected at Elegu by last Friday.
The northern regional Police commander, Simon Peter Wafana, said there were only five trucks provided by the UNHCR to transport the huge number of refugees from Elegu to Pakele reception centre in Ndzaipi sub-county, Adjumani district, 31km from Elegu.
“Sanitation and water, shelter, food and medical care are lacking and should be put in place before a disease outbreak occurs,” Wafana said, adding that the UNHCR staff were so few on the ground.
Titus Jogo, the UNHCR refugees’ desk officer in Adjumani, admitted that the humanitarian situation had gone out of hand and must be addressed as soon as possible.
“Let’s continue to join hands as much as possible to avoid further humanitarian catastrophes here at Elegu,” said Jogo.
He suggested to the meeting that one way of reducing the problems was for UNCHR to increase the number of trucks that are ferrying the refugees.
Jogo said the UNCHR team on the ground was negotiating with the truck drivers on transit via Elegu, but the owners were hiking the hire fees to unreasonable amounts.
“The UNHCR is in charge of the funds and logistics, while the World Food Programme supplies food to the reception centres and camps in Adjumani, Arua and Kiryandongo,” Jogo added.