AFRICA/UGANDA - Ration cuts and price increases seriously affect refugees in Uganda

Friday, 9 December 2022

Kampala (Agenzia Fides) - The living conditions of refugees continue to worsen due to the sharp reductions in food rations and the increase in prices. Sister Laura Gemignani, a Comboni missionary working in Kanawat, diocese of Kotido in Karamoja, a 10-hour drive from Kampala, confirms the precarious situation of hundreds of thousands of refugees. Contacted by phone while she was on her way to Kampala, the missionary confirmed that the sisters collaborate in Yoro, near a camp called Rhino kamp, where they take care of children who hope to enter the village and make a greater contribution to all.
"There are 130,000 displaced people, 80% women and children", explains Sister Laura. "We are organizing ourselves to go there permanently, we have found water, we have to build a house for the two Ugandan sisters and a health center", with the hope that funds will arrive that can also be used for this emergency.
Uganda hosts more refugees than any other African nation, with almost 1.5 million people fleeing conflict in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Somalia. Now, due to the dire food emergency, many are considering returning to their countries of origin, as a shortage of funds forces the World Food Program (WFP) to cut rations for the third time in the last three years. According to official estimates, the latest round of cuts will affect refugees in October and comes after previous cuts in 2020 and 2021. Assistance in the camps is split between cash aid and direct food aid and now, with the recent cuts , all refugees receiving food aid have less than 40% of what WFP calls basic survival rations. As a consequence, the lack of food makes it difficult for children to attend school and to concentrate during classes. Around 440 students have dropped out this year, and those who attend do so mostly during exam time or leave before the end of the day to look for food. In addition, last month, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, declared that it could not provide enough soap to refugees or adequately equip health centers, which are in the midst of an Ebola outbreak that has so far claimed the lives of 56 people.
Aid workers blamed the latest cuts on the response to the emergency drought in the Horn of Africa and the war in Ukraine, which prompted international donors to reallocate aid funds. Resources were further strained in 2022 by the unexpected arrival in Uganda of hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries, including South Sudan and the DRC, where violence is escalating due to the known armed group as the March 23 Movement (M23), a dormant Congolese rebel force recently reactivated in Kigali. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 9/12/2022)