Mr Kennedy Lemi Elia is the secretary for persons of concern in Ofua zone III refugee settlement in Rhino camp, Uganda. Gunshot injuries left him disabled and yet his five children are too young to fend for themselves.
The previous help advanced to his family by well-wishers has been halted since the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were imposed by the government of Uganda.
“We have a lot of challenges as persons with disabilities, we had been supported by some of our relatives who work elsewhere but all this has been stopped because of the disease.
“Even at the distribution points, we face challenges, the food has been reduced and yet you are sometimes forced to sell some of it because there is no one to help you to carry your portion”, Lemi narrates.
MsJoana Ojomarua, a member of the host community from Ofua Zone II settlement lost all her three children and had to return to their ancestral home to live a solitary life, she has no one to help her and yet open markets were closed as a preventive measure to stop the spread of COVID-19.
For 56- year old Izikio Anguyo, who has a chronic cough and divorced with the wife, the biggest suffering was caused due to the heavy rains that destroyed their crops. He physically looks frail and in bad health.
Such is the general picture of the hundreds of persons of concern in the refugee settlements and their host communities largely intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
GRTR comes to aid of community
The Global rehabilitation and transformation response (GRTR- Uganda) a refugee led non-governmental, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that stands on the norm of equal rights and opportunities for all has intervened to minimize the extent of damage.
“We are responding to some of the challenges of the persons of concern and want to make sure those who are old and can’t come out also get some supplementary food” said Mr Thomas Taban, the program coordinator GRTR.
The package given includes Posho, milk, sugar, salt, silver fish, rice and packets of biscuits.
Despite the overwhelming acceptance of such a contribution to the livelihoods of the vulnerable, the need in the society is enormous and yet the resource envelope for the organization is limited.
“These people are really vulnerable that they need our support and they are not the only ones, there are many more down there who need the support but our hands are tied because of the resource envelope”, said Ms Dawa Jane Suzan, the organization’s head of the donation.
She continued “As you can see, after here who else can give them something, we know that WFP has been helping them but the food is not enough and the ratio has also been cut”
The approach of the organization was to include both the vulnerable refugees and their host communities which was hailed by some of the local people.
“This is the first time that the host community is being put together with the refugees to benefit from a program and I want to thank GRTR for this gesture” said Mr Jacob Andu, a land lord in Ofua II settlement.
Andu also urged the rest of the refugees to collaborate with their hosts so that they can engage in agriculture to supplement the food aid.
GRTR’s key areas of intervention include Environmental and natural resources, sustainable peace building, youth and women engagement, education and livelihoods, health, water and sanitation as well as research.
Apart from the food aid, other beneficiaries of the GRTR donations include motorcycle riders commonly known as Boda bodas with face masks and grants to women groups.
Areas of operation include Ofua zone III and II in Uriama sub county, Ariwa in Siripi zone Odupi Sub County and Omugo in Terego and Eden in Madi Okollo district.
Local leaders appeal for help
In March 2020, the world food program (WFP) reduced the monthly food rations by 30% attracting a wide outcry from the refugee population.
The drastic cut was as a result of diminished donor funding due to the devastation caused by the global pandemic.
Although the refugees were advised to remain calm, to date the COVID-19 situation has continued and the vulnerable groups have been the worst hit as a result.
Local leaders have appealed for more humanitarian organizations to come to the aid of the vulnerable groups so as to compliment the efforts of WFP.
“There are a lot of persons of concern out there but we can’t serve them all at ago and for the few people who are here, we appreciate your presence and take it heartily and we hope that funding allowing, we can reach more people”, Said Gift Peter, the chairman refugee welfare council (RWC I) chairman of Ofua II settlement.
His appeal for more funding is reechoed by the local council III chairman of Uriama Sub County expressing happiness that the current package offered by GRTR had been extended to the host community.
“I am really very happy for the activity, you know COVID-19 has caused a lot of instability, there were many people who used to go out to look for a living but now they are blocked away. I am really very happy that this organization has come to support our host communities together with the refugees, my only appeal to the donors is to increase the funding so that many more of our needy people can benefit”, Itrima said.