March 27, 2017 (KAMPALA) - The United Nations has warned that Uganda is at a “breaking point” as almost 3,000 refugees fleeing famine and the violence in South Sudan enter the country each day.
- Leaders of South Sudanese refugees address a rally at Bweyale camp, April 30, 2016 (ST)
As such, the world body says it urgently needs more than $250 million to support South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
Last year, only 33% of the $649 million needed for South Sudan was reportedly funded.
Filippo Grandi, the U.N High Commissioner for Refugees, appealed to the international community for assistance, saying that with present rates of arrival, the numbers of refugees in Uganda would surpass a million before the middle of 2017.
“We are at a breaking point. Uganda cannot handle Africa’s largest refugee crisis alone,” Grandi told reporters in Kampala last week.
“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,” he added.
On his part, Ruhakana Rugunda, the Ugandan prime minister, said the surge in refugees had placed enormous strain on public services and infrastructure, with food and clean water running short.
“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,” he said.
Since July 2016, some 572,000 new arrivals who have poured into Uganda in desperate need of safety, with 172,000 arriving there this year alone, the U.N refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a recent report.
Babar Baloch, a spokesman for UNHCR said the international community “failed” Uganda while dealing with “Africa’s largest refugee crisis.”
“Inside South Sudan, there is insecurity, food shortages and gross human rights abuses,” he said, adding “This is what has prompted these people to flee to Uganda and safety.”
According to Baloch, Uganda’s approach to dealing with refugees had been among the most progressive on the continent, with the government and host community displaying outstanding generosity toward people fleeing war and conflict.
“The government is open to welcoming refugees and the host nation is sharing land and resources with the South Sudanese,” said Baloch.
“But the world is failing the refugee hosts and the world’s most vulnerable refugees as well,” he added.
Tens of thousands of people have died and nearly two million displaced in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war, which began in December 2013 as a result of a struggle for power between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.