3000 Congolese refugees arrive in Uganda

Anurith, an asylum-seeker from the DRC sits with her children after health screening in Zombo, Uganda Anurith, an asylum-seeker from the DRC sits with her children after health screening in Zombo, Uganda UNHCR/Rocco Nuri

7 July 2020

Over 3000 refugees arrived from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Uganda during a temporary border opening last week

These new arrivals are actually a part of approximately 45,000 Congolese refugees who arrived in Uganda in May this year after clashes erupted between militant armed groups in Ituri province in DRC. However, some other refugees remained at the Ugandan border as it is closed to contain the spread of Covid-19. The newly arrived group consists of 33 pregnant women and approximately 65 percent are children.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)  spokesperson Charlie Yaxley  reported gut wrenching stories of Congolese refugees and the militant attacks they have faced in their villages. ‘Many of them told us that they were separated from their families and had little time to pack any belongings or look for family members before fleeing. Very few were able to carry personal items and most fled barefoot with only the clothes they were wearing’, as reported by UNHCR. 

The new group has been taken to Zeu Farm Institute, an old training centre for farmers in Zombo district of Uganda. In order to support the centre UNHCR has installed amenities like water tanks, health screening areas, toilets and handwashing facilities for the refugees. The Government of Uganda has been conducting sample Covid-19 testing on refugees. Refugees have received doses of Vitamin A and vaccinations against cholera, measles, rubella and polio. A mandatory 14 day quarantine period for the refugees has been implemented before they will be transported to existing refugee settlements. UNHCR applauded the Ugandan Government’s decision to welcome refugees and give them necessary medical aid and protection during Covid-19.

Uganda has around 1,000 recorded cases of Covid-19 so far. UNHCR has been supporting the Ugandan government with providing hand washing supplies and face masks. The government is also strengthening isolation facilities in Uganda. However, refugees face challenges due severe food ration cuts. UNHCR urgently needs $28 million for its operation to assist refugees with basic amenities. UNHCR appeals for international solidarity to help Uganda uphold its commitments towards the Global Compact on Refugees and maintain its progressive refugee policy during these difficult times.


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Author: Saumya Bhardawaj

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