ADJUMANI. The Swelling population of refugees in Adjumani refugee settlements is greatly threatening the resource envelope and affecting the quality of service delivery to both the host communities and the refugee population.
District leaders claim that although new entrance of refugees has stopped, many South Sudanese have continued to enter Uganda in search of social amenities and many in the settlements are producing at a high rate.
According to the data from the office of the prime minister, Adjumani is home to close to 236,000 refugees from South Sudan, more than the national population that stands at 232,000 according to the 2014 Uganda bureau of statistics (UBOs) report.
Mr Ben Anyama, the district chairman said in two years’ time, the population of the refugees may go up to 250,000 which he noted will affect the resources allocation of the district.
Anyama noted that the continued conflict in South Sudan has kept many South Sudanese to send their children to Uganda to access education and health services.
He said due to the conducive environment provided by the Ugandan government, many of the refugees find producing as many children as possible.
Anyama noted the bulging population has had a far reaching impact on social, economic, and political impacts especially the environment has been depilated as many of the refugees depend on wood fuel for cooking, trees for construction of houses which has left the environment without being reclaimed.
Anyama further explained that, as a result of the influx, the roads get worn up very fast due to the heavy fleet on the roads that carry food to the settlements.
“Our classrooms are filled to full capacity, our hospital is a 100-bed capacity but currently the hospital is treating more than five hundred patients, the maternity ward alone has 25 bed capacity yet right now it has 100 mothers and this means that services have to be compromised”, Anyama stated.
Although the population of the refugees has been increasing, district officials said when it comes to service delivery, they do not marginalize the refugees and host communities and all are treated equally.
The Adjumani district chief administrative officer Mr. Michael Wanje pointed out that, the services to the refugees were planned for by UNHCR and UN Agencies but now with the National development Plan III (NDP III), Uganda is now trying to factor in the issues of humanitarian assistance to refugees with the open-door policy Uganda has.
He noted that the open-door policy has led to the increase in population of the refugees which has a negative impact on the resources envelope of the district.
Wanje said, “The district for financial year 2021/2022 passed a budget of shs70billion for a population of 232,000 but now with an additional population of 236,000 refugees means another additional budget of 70billion is needed to be able to deliver effective services”
The settlement commandant Adjumani Mr. Robert Andeoye who spoke on behalf of refugee desk officer affirmed that the number of refugees in Adjumani is bigger than that of the nationals and as such, the Adjumani office has not registered new entrance of refugees to the district but only on special arrangements. He noted that the number has grown due to the new borns within the refugee settlements.
Andeoye added that the increasing number requires adequate resources to be able to deliver effective services, clarifying that some UN Agencies and partners intervened to supplement the mandates of the OPM to ensure that refugees get adequate services.
Ms Nancy Asibazoyo, the project officer FAWE, said her organisation under its project program on women empowerment on social reproductive maternal newborn child and adolescent health right with funding from UNWOMEN are focused on economic empowerment and sexual health rights by doing awareness and sanitization.
She noteed that their target beneficiaries are commercial sex workers, persons living with HIV/AIDS, survivors of Gender based violence, teenage mothers, windows and older persons.
One of the partners that has intervened to deliver services to the increasing refugee population indicated that they have been providing legal services to the refugee population on women empowerment, skilling and training them on leadership with more focus on women so that the bulging population can be managed.
Care international with funding from the UNWOMEN has also been empowering women with income generating activities and empowering women with the cash for work. Ms. Better Auma, the livelihood coordinator Care international said the women groups have picked very well.
Sophie Anzoa, a widow in the Women of peace group testified that when they received 7million shillings last year, they invested it and now have raised 21million from their group business.
She said from the group business they have opened individual and personal businesses that help them feed their families and pay school fees.
The deputy country representative UN Women Ms Adekemi Ndieli, who visited the district appreciated the work of the implementing partners stating that Uganda for its open door policy that allowed refugees to do business to supplement the resources given by the partners has been a tremendous achievement.