Refugees crossing to Uganda from DRC increase, encroach on Bugoma forest

Violet Namata

Violet Namata

, News

 

The daily arrival rates of Congolese seeking refuge in Uganda continues to hike with roughly 1000 people arriving at Kyangwali settlement camp doubling the numbers in the settlement despite the ongoing refugee influx in the country.

Kyangwali is a big settlement covering 142 square miles with four zones; A, B, C and D and with 17 villages and 250 blocks.

It is estimated that by March this year, 70,000 refugees will have settled in Kyangwali refugee camp. According to the settlement commandant Kebirungi Jolly, this influx is the first of its kind.

“The influx started on 19th December 2017 and now there are 31430 refugees in the camp. With Sebagolo being the main landing site for these refugees. Before March ends we are most likely to have 70,000 individuals on ground,” Kebirungi said.

Refugees in Kyangwali include; Burundians, Rwandese, Kenyans, and the majority from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Kebirungi adds that most of the refugees have left their countries basically because of land wrangles.

Meanwhile cholera that was reported to have broken out in the camp last week has been dealt with according to Kebirungi. She says that there are 600 cases that have been admitted but no longer life threatening.

“Cholera admissions are 600 and above, but we have managed to contain it, so we are no longer having death rates,” she said

Kebirungi says that in two days after the outbreak, they lost 15 children to cholera but now the situation is being handled together with the Uganda Red Cross Society through its WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) activities which has lessened the impact of the epidemic.

“Red Cross has intervened in the cases of WASH, providing disinfections, and recruiting volunteers,” she added

Red Cross society has carried out sensitisation exercises in order to have the hygiene improve in Kyangwali Refugee settlement camp.

“Through our social mobilization and sensitisation campaign we have been able to contain cholera. What we are doing is sensitisation which has helped curb cholera at the settlement camp and the reception center. Our team of volunteers do vector control through spraying so that if you picked the virus from some where you cannot bring it here,” Irene Nakasiita the Public Relations Officer, Red Cross said.

Nakasiita adds that Red Cross has been able to set up a water plant that will help refugees to access clean and safe water since it was a challenge.

Over the last four years persistent conflict and unrests in different parts of the African continent have resulted in high levels of displacement. Due to its open door policy to refugees, Uganda is currently hosting more than one million of these refugees.

While refugee hosting is associated with some benefits to the local economy, the large scale presence of refugees undeniably creates a heavy burden for hosting communities.

Given the projected number of refugees, Bugoma forest could cease to exist. The refugees have been seen cutting down trees to get firewood and poles to construct their camps.

It is upon this back ground that the Red Cross society has called upon those responsible to curb the situation before the forest is depleted.

“It is true that the coming of refugees has a direct impact on the resources that we have as a country and this forest being one of them, I can see the mothers are getting trees from the forest to erect their tents and also for cooking, that has an impact on the forest but it is upon those responsible especially the government to put up stringent rules that will prohibit the refugees from depleting the forest,” Nakasiita said

Kebirunji Jolly who cited that the problem was in place but they have prospects of tree planting. However she says the problem with the idea is that the survival rate is low.

“Wherever refugees go definitely we give them land but there is that clearing for agriculture accommodation and we realize that in one way or the other there is deforestation, well there is need for intervention but we are having partners coming on board so as to ensure tree planting but the challenge we have is that the survival rate is low,” she emphasized.

 

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