73% of South Sudanese refugees are children

By Andrew Masinde

Majority of the children entering Uganda are malnourished because they trek for long journeys to the borders without food.

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PIC:  Children share a meal at Elegu reception centre

Over 73% of the thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict in South Sudan over the last three weeks are children. So far, 27,660 South Sudanese children have fled to Uganda.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2,442 South Sudanese refugees arrived on July 25, through Elegu, Moyo, Lawmo, Arua and Kiryandongo. The total number of refugees since July 17, 2016 is 37,890.

 
In a telephone interview, the Refugees Desk officer in the Office of the Prime Minister in Adjumani, Titus Jogo said majority of the children entering Uganda are malnourished. This is attributed to the fact that most of them trekked for long journeys to the borders without food.

“If a breastfeeding mother has not eaten anything, then she will not have breast milk for her baby. Also the elderly are affected since they cannot fight to get food. We have opened a therapeutic centre were they such children will access nutritional foods and supplements,” Jogo explains.

 
In addition to meeting their nutritional needs, Jogo says the refugee desk is also ensuring that the children are immunised.

UNICEF’s Communication Specialist Catherine Ntabadde says from July 19-26, 5,501 children (4,487 under five, 1,014 above five years of age) were immunised against polio; 11,536 children (4,313 under-fives, 7,223 above five years, but below 15 years old) were immunised against measles. She further stated that there are enough vaccines to support the response courtesy of a number of relief agencies.

 
Jogo says that there are enough vaccines to support the response courtesy of a number of relief agencies.

He noted that UNICEF and Ministry of Health have a target of 15,000 under-fives for polio and 30,000 children below 15 years for measles immunisation.

Following an inter-agency assessment mission comprising of UNHCR, Office of Prime Minister, UNICEF and other partners, a new settlement will be opened in Yumbe district. This settlement could host up to 100,000 refugees.

 
Jogo, however, noted that the biggest challenge currently is poor sanitation. Many of the refugees need to be sensitised about proper sanitation.

“There are latrines and cesspool trucks on standby to empty the filled up latrines. We have put in place several water points such as motorised boreholes, tanks and at least each refugee is able to get 18 litres of water per day. UNICEF has also installed boreholes, so safe water is not a problem,” Jogo stressed.

Jogo also says that there are many children who are on their own so they are working with relief agencies to trace the families of these children.