South Sudanese refugees fleeing the war zone in their country, where killings and violent attacks, including rapes, have escalated, now face the prospect of hunger as their numbers continue to swell in refugee camps in Uganda.
On Wednesday the Ugandan government, which has been a major supporter of the refugees, and the United Nations (UN), announced that they would be forced to halve food rations or cash assistance as the refugees fleeing to Uganda swell the hundreds of thousands already there.
“Around 200 000 refugees who arrived in Uganda prior to July 2015 will have their food rations or cash assistance reduced by 50% from this week,” according to a joint press release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP) and Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister.
“Low levels of funding, together with a large number of new arrivals fleeing to Uganda from South Sudan since July 7, have left the refugee response with no choice but to reprioritise their focus on those refugees in greatest need,” said the release.
It was further noted that the situation in the region since clashes between rival forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO) – broke out in and around the capital, Juba, came close to the fifth anniversary of the country’s independence.
Refugees, who arrived after July 2015, along with the especially vulnerable, such as orphans, the elderly, chronically ill and malnourished, would continue to receive a full ration – 2 122 calories of food per day, in line with the minimum recommended daily allowance, during their first year.
This would decrease as they became progressively more self-reliant during their time in Uganda.
Other refugees received cash assistance in place of food rations, providing them with the opportunity to exercise greater personal choice.
WFP requires about $7 million (R92.9 million) every month to provide life-saving food assistance to refugees in Uganda.
Despite the generous support of donors, the humanitarian response needs an additional $20 million to restore full food rations for the rest of the year.
“We have done everything we can to avoid this, but we have been left with no option but to reduce food assistance for many of the refugees in Uganda in order to stretch available resources and prioritise the most vulnerable new arrivals,” said Mike Sackett, WFP’s acting Country Director for Uganda.
“We hope that this is temporary and we are working as hard as we can to raise the resources needed to restore the full level of food assistance for as many refugees as possible,” he added.
The statement pointed out that the humanitarian response to South Sudanese refugees in Uganda was severely underfunded, even before the July outbreak of violence in Juba – which has since prompted more than 70 000 people to cross the border into Uganda.
“Never has the international community been more generous in its donations towards refugees,” said the acting UNHCR Representative to Uganda, Bornwell Kantande.
“At the same time, never has the gap between what is being provided and what is needed been larger.
– African News Agency (ANA)