On Thursday, August 17, the United Nations said the number of South Sudanese refugees sheltering in Uganda has reached 1 million. Thus making it the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.
The conflict in South Sudan has created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and UN agencies are receiving a fraction of the cash they need to provide food and shelter.
Ugandan officials say they are overwhelmed by the flow of people fleeing South Sudan’s civil war. To this effect, the UN refugee agency urges the international community to donate more for humanitarian assistance.
In a statement released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an average of 1,800 South Sudanese citizens have been arriving daily in Uganda over the past 12 months. Another 1 million or more South Sudanese are sheltering in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo and the Central African Republic. Reuters reported that women and children make up more than 85 percent of the arrivals.
“Two weeks ago my husband’s uncle was killed,” said Stella Taji, a refugee now taking shelter in Uganda, as she trudged barefoot over the bridge, a toddler clinging to her hand. “Since then we’ve been hiding in the bush. We have nothing.”
However, in Uganda, the government has set policies that enable South Sudanese refugees receive hot meals, vaccinations, and plots of land. All can enter and they are free to travel and work in Uganda. These policies have drawn praise from aid groups and international bodies.
Sacha Manov, deputy director in Uganda for the International Rescue Committee, which provides health and protection services for refugees said: “The government response to accepting the South Sudanese refugees has been overwhelmingly positive, progressive, and welcoming.”
Even with Uganda’s progressive policies, the refugee agency UNHCR said Uganda was struggling to provide food and shelter and needs more assistance from the international communities.
Charlie Yaxley, the spokesman for the agency reiterated that donor nations have not given enough, with the UN agency having received just about 21 percent of the $674 million needed for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda in 2017.
“That’s leaving significant gaps in the abilities of the humanitarian response to deliver lifesaving assistance and also key basic services,” he added.
In May, a cash crunch forced the UN to lower food rations in half, to six kilograms of maize. They have since been restored but funding remains weak.
The situation in South Sudan remains grim as there is no end in sight to the conflict. South Sudan analyst, Alan Boswell stated that international peacemaking efforts have stalled and the United States, which played a key role in previous negotiations, is yet to appoint a top official for Africa.
To help Uganda sustain its progressive policies, other international communities and agencies need to contribute further to provide an alternative means of livelihood for South Sudanese refugees.