YUMBE. The government of Uganda has expressed grave concerns over the state of degradation of the environment in refugee settlements across the country, calling for more concerted efforts from partners to reduce the damage.

The government is specifically proposing smart energy technologies like the use of solar power and improved cook stoves to meet the abundant demand.

The country according to the latest revised figures is home to 1,000,250 refugee’s majority of whom come from South Sudan.

“The state of degradation is worrying with up to 58% of destruction to the vegetation cover. this has adverse effects in the long run, therefore, all partners must look at possibility of using the natural sunshine in Uganda to replace the rampant cutting of trees” said Mr Musa Ecweru, the Minister of state for disaster preparedness and refugees.

Ecweru was inspecting different projects at the 250 square-kilometre Bidibidi settlement in Yumbe district, one of the most affected by environmental destruction.

He was impressed by $350,000 (about sh1.3b) solar powered water facility at Obomiri village that despite only being in its initial phase of construction is already supplying water at a radius of up to 36km to both the refugees and the host communities.

Mr Mohamed Dahir, the head of office for catholic relief services (CRS) that is undertaking the project said the second phase of the project is expected to cost another $300,000 (about sh1.12b) and called on donors to continue availing the funds.

The Wednesday field visit under the comprehensive refugee response framework (CRRF) launched as a pilot in 2017 is a multi-stake holder coordination model on refugee matters focusing on humanitarian aid and development needs for both refugees and host communities.

It involved high level delegations from the sister ministries of local government, water and environment, education and health as well as international and local humanitarian and development partners.

The team including Mr Richard Matua, a commissioner in the ministry of water and environment also visited another solar water pumping system at Barakala in Romogi sub-county that supplies safe water to the communities as well as the nearby Brakala health centre III and the primary school.

“I am very grateful for this appropriate technology that can supply up to 85,000 cubic meters of water per hour and I ask all partners to emulate this example. I also want the local government to fully own this project” Matua said.

Refugees 11 04 19Refugees and host communities line up to fetch water at one of the points in Bidibidi. PHOTO BY RIMILIAH AMANDU

Events of the visit are expected to culminate into resolutions and recommendations in a Thursday meeting in Arua that would be channelled to the appropriate bodies to improve the living conditions as the refugees continue to live in the country.

Other projects visited included a briquette making initiative, a sunflower processing plant and construction projects of classrooms under the accelerated learning program.

Uganda has been hailed by the international community as a model for its open door policy towards refugees where they live in settlements as opposed to restricted camps as is the case in many countries.