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12,000 Kenyan refugees now in Uganda

Briefing notes

12,000 Kenyan refugees now in Uganda

5 February 2008

Ugandan authorities report that some 12,000 Kenyan refugees are now in the country after fleeing the post-election violence in their homeland. A UNHCR emergency team arrived over the weekend in Uganda and has been deployed to Tororo, in the south-eastern part of the country along the border with Kenya. The team will lead emergency response and coordination with the local and central authorities.

We are registering new arrivals. According to Ugandan authorities, there are presently some 6,500 Kenyans in Tororo, Manafwa and Busia districts in the south-east, and another 5,500 in Bukwa district, 180 km north of Tororo town.

Late last week, a joint mission to Bukwa district found that most of the refugees there were from the Mt. Elgon and Eldoret areas in Kenya. Most are being accommodated by local communities. They appear to be in good condition, but local resources are running out to care for these people.

The joint mission also looked into a possible relocation of the newly arrived Kenyan refugees to Mulanda transit centre, about 160 km from Bukwa. Road conditions are extremely bad - taking about 3½ hours with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. In addition, some Kenyan refugees in Bukwa expressed concern over the ethnic composition of the refugees already at Mulanda transit centre and indicated that they may not be prepared to relocate to there. UNHCR plans to address these issues by providing more information to the refugees about conditions at Mulanda.

Since 23 January, we have moved 1,334 Kenyan refugees to Mulanda, mostly from Busia, Malaba and Lwakhakha villages on the border with Kenya. A UNHCR team is in Mulanda to provide a range of services for the refugee community there. Over the weekend, the Ugandan Red Cross and UNHCR distributed rice, beans, posho (kind of local porridge), oil, maize, tins of beef and sugar. Today we plan a distribution of second-hand clothes donated by several NGOs and charities.

Meanwhile, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, this morning met with Kenya's Minister for Special Programmes, who is overseeing the internal displacement operation in Kenya. She also met the Director-General of the Kenya Red Cross Society. Cheng-Hopkins assured the Kenya government of UNHCR's continued readiness to support ongoing efforts to help an estimated 300,000 internally displaced people. She welcomed the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kenya Red Cross Society and called for the quick implementation of the agreement.