Joint Statement by Honourable Minister Esther Anyakun and UNHCR Representative Joel Boutroue on the Increase of New Arrivals from Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudanese to Uganda
The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, would like to express their concern for the increase in levels of insecurity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which continues to forcibly displace thousands of men, women, and children into Uganda. There are more than 35,000 new arrivals from the DRC and South Sudan who have reached transit and reception centres in Uganda since January 2022. The number of new arrivals from the DRC significantly increases if those who have settled in communities around the border are considered.
More than 16,000 have arrived and been registered since March 28th from North Kivu and Ituri provinces following the intensification of conflict in the DRC. There are three major entry points that have been receiving new arrivals who are seeking safety and security: Bunagana in Kisoro District, Busunga in Bundibugyo District and Mponwe in Kasese District. These new arrivals are in addition to nearly 20,000 individuals who have fled from the DRC and South Sudan since the start of the year. In February, 9,000 individuals arrived from the DRC into Bunagana and in March 4,500 individuals arrived from South Sudan mainly through Busia and Elegu citing insecurity and flooding. The holding area and transit centre in Kisoro District started to receive new arrivals on 28 March 2020 and the total population there is 15,125 individuals. If the current rate of arrivals continues, OPM and UNHCR anticipate that more than 60,000 individuals may arrive in Uganda by end of June.
Tension is rising within communities because of a rapid increase of individuals and families who are dependent on the generosity of the local population. District authorities are encouraging new arrivals to move from the border to established collection points and transit centres to maintain security and peaceful coexistence.
“Uganda continues to welcome refugees and remains Africa’s largest refugee hosting country” said Hon. Esther Anyakun, Uganda’s Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, “Uganda however needs to be supported, especially in times of crisis so we can maintain peaceful coexistence and continue to keep our doors open”.
OPM, UNHCR and partners in the refugee response are working around the clock to provide essential protection services and lifesaving assistance including food, drinking water, emergency shelters, adequate latrines and bathing facilities, and core relief items, in Nyakabande, Bubukwanga, and Bwera transit areas, located at a safe distance from the border. Health and nutrition screening has also been set up to ensure the safety of the new arrivals. Supplies and funding has been shifted from regular programmes, which are already under-resourced, to meet the urgent needs of affected populations.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring timely and adequate support for those fleeing across the border,” said Joel Boutroue, UNHCR’s Representative to Uganda, “these are men, women and children who have fled extreme violence several times. They have experienced emotional and physical trauma. They have lost their livelihood and their support networks have been scattered. They need our attention and support.”
UNHCR, with support from partners, is in the process of expanding the capacity of the existing reception centers and preparing Uganda’s refugee settlements to receive the new arrivals. However, substantial additional support is needed in the settlements to ensure that refugee households have access to their basic needs. This includes preparing the plots, providing shelter materials and food rations, as well as reinforcing water and sanitation facilities. Health centres and schools which are already overstretched are being assessed to determine the impact of a rapid increase in the population.
Despite generous contributions from donors, UNHCR’s 2022 refugee response remains severely underfunded with only US $30 million received by the end of the first quarter in 2022 against the US $343.4 million appeal. The severe underfunding of the refugee response and the increase needs in the country will make responding to this emergency and maintaining existing services for the 1.5 million refugees more challenging.
OPM and UNHCR will continue to work together with partners to address this evolving situation and welcomes any additional support that can be provided to refugees and host communities whose safety and protection are at risk. This includes greater regional coordination and action amongst humanitarian and development partners to address this increased flow of new arrivals into Uganda.
For further information, please contact:
•Office of the Prime Minister, Julius Mucunguzi, +256 776 210 307
•UNHCR, Leslie Velez, Senior External Engagement Coordinator, +256770832111, [email protected]