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article imageUganda refugees a 'silent emergency’ UN official says

By Christopher Szabo     Mar 10, 2010 in World
Kampala - A UN official has described the refugee crisis in southwest Uganda as a ”silent emergency” as the government and humanitarian agencies struggle with a lack of resources.
The humanitarian news agency, IRIN, quoted Uganda’s deputy representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR,) Nemia Temporal, who said:
We can hardly meet international standards of indicators such as water, health and food. For instance, we are delivering 15 litres (of water) per person per day instead of the standard 20.
Temporal said the international community no longer considered the plight of refugees from fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as urgent.
Uganda is now home to almost 143,000 refugees from the DRC, the UN’s figures for February show. At least 45,000 live in a single refugee settlement, Nakivale, near the DRC border with Uganda.
The Ugandan government allows refugees to settle and cultivate small plots of land. However, the recent influx of new refugees, as well as militia groups from fighting in neighbouring North Kivu province in DRC has made the situation worse, according to Temporal. She said:
We plan for the existing refugee population but, often, many others continue arriving and this has an impact on the quality of the services we provide. We need money to get livelihood interventions going at the same time that we are offering emergency humanitarian assistance.
A UNHCR briefing document said:
Overall, the food security situation in the country deteriorated last year in comparison to the previous year. For the refugee programme, the World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to roll out a ”cash-in-lieu-of-food” project with a pilot expected to start in Oruchinga - a refugee settlement with some 2,032 refugees in southwest Uganda.
Refugees rioted last year over delays in food distribution. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a document:
Interim assessments indicate that if the food shortage is not adequately addressed by the next distribution, UNHCR operations in settlements will be affected, with limited staff access on safety grounds.
IRIN said the continued lack of funds meant the refugee agencies were unable to sufficiently care for the refugees’ needs.
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