Refugees panic as WFP cuts food aid

UNHCR receives refugees at Sebagoro landing site in Kabwoya Sub-county, Kikuube District recently. (Photo credit: John Kibego)

Panic engulfs Kyangwali Settlement refugees in Kikuube District after the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) announced a reduction in food aid by 30 percent.

The news for the cut in food assistance that started on April 1, this year, was received with shock as refugees doubt their next course of living.

Mr Edison Nzeimaana, one of the refugees in the settlement, laments that the decision and move will worsen the refugees’ life following the current stringent restrictions aimed at preventing further spread of Covid-19 world over.

“Some of our parents had some small businesses inside [the settlement] and in host communities but were closed. Land for agriculture was left only for the new refugees and markets in which some refugees could go for business were closed over Covid-19 threat. We now have no alternative source of livelihood,” he says.

Mr Nzeimaana asks the international community to consider providing contributions to the UN Food Agency as they may be pre-occupied with the Covid-19 challenge in order to save the vulnerable refugees.

Mr Edison Nzeimaana on assistance.

Mr Access Bazibuha, a Congolese refugee who teaches Kiswahili Language in Hoima town, is also perplexed. He says that the cut finds him idle at home since schools were shut down under the ‘stay home’ presidential directive geared towards preventing further spread of Covid-19.

The WFP assistance cut down to 70 percent affects more than 1.2 million refugees in Uganda.

Ms Lydia Wamala, the Communications Officer at the WFP-Uganda, says the UN Food agency’s option was unavoidable because of a US$137m funding shortfall for 2020.

She reveals that to ably maintain the cuts at 70 percent assistance, WFP will need at least US$96m funding over the course of the year. Otherwise, the agency will be forced to cut the rations by another 15 percent due to the deficit.

However, the Communications Officer discloses that the cuts will not affect new refugees who arrived in the past three months. WFP will continue providing sufficient fortified food for malnourished children, expectant and nursing mothers based on the available funding, she adds.

According to her, WFP’s message to the international community goes: ‘Until refugees are fully self-reliant, their food needs remain and present great risks to the world if unattended to’.

Ms Wamala emphasises that: “In the past, we have seen donor countries and their taxpayers give generously to WFP even as they manage their domestic challenges. We are counting on this precedent so that we can uphold Uganda’s progressive approach to refugees as a model for the wider region and beyond.”

The Communications Officer also points out that food is the first step in the journey to ensuring the refugees’ self-reliance and the success of the Ugandan approach since there is already the fear that Covid-19 will adversely affect the refugees.

“We must meet their basic needs, which include food to prevent a catastrophe in Uganda,” she concluded.

Refugees set for Kyangwali Settlement in Kikuube District from Lake Albert shores recently. (Photo by John Kibego)

Uganda hosts refugees from different countries with majority from DRC, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi.

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