March 23, 2017 (ADJUMANI) – The United Nations refugee assistance efforts in Uganda are seriously overstretched as thousands of refugees from South Sudan, desperate for safety and assistance, pour into the country that is already hosting more than 800,000 people, a top official warned.
- Leaders of South Sudanese refugees address a rally at Bweyale camp, April 30, 2016 (ST)
“We are at breaking point” warned Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, appealing for urgent and massive support.
“The lack of international attention to the suffering of the South Sudanese people is failing some of the most vulnerable people in the world when they most desperately need our help," added the official.
More than 70 per cent of the number in Uganda (about 572,000) arrived since July last year and given present rate of arrivals, the figure could surpass one million by the middle of 2017.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Uganda’s approach to dealing with refugees has long been among the “most progressive” anywhere on the African continent but the sheer scale of the influx has placed enormous strain its services and infrastructure.
“Uganda has continued to maintain open borders,” Ruhakana Rugunda, the Prime Minister of Uganda was quoted saying, adding, “We continue to welcome our neighbours in their time of need but we urgently need the international community to assist as the situation is becoming increasingly critical.”
Chronic and severe underfunding has reportedly reached the point where critical programmes operated by UNHCR are at the risk of being dangerously compromised.
An estimated 100,000 people in South Sudan are currently experiencing famine, and according to government and U.N agencies, with another one million people on the brink of starvation.
Tens of thousand of people have died and nearly two million displaced in South Sudan’s civil war, which began in December 2013 as a result of a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.