Thanks to the generous financial support of a private investor in the United States, iAID has completed two lifesaving emergency aid missions to help South Sudanese refugees in the Rhino Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda, where the malnutrition in children is at crisis point.
The food program took place in two stages August and October 2017 in the Rhino settlement, which is home to 102,000 South Sudanese refugees. iAID implemented the program upon the request of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the Ugandan Prime Minister’s Office. The Rhino Settlement in Arua District is Uganda’s 4th largest refugee camp with a population as of August 2017 of 102,000 South Sudanese refugees. The world’s fastest growing refugee crisis is now centered on Uganda. Since mid 2016 the central African nation has taken in around 1.3 million people — more than Greece, Turkey or any other country in the world at the height of the 2016 crisis in Europe.
Food insecurity is a major issue in Africa with sustained famine cycles in the region. The current scale of malnutrition and hunger in South Sudan has had an extraordinary impact on Uganda, which is also in drought. Every day around 2,000 people stream across Uganda’s borders – most are from South Sudan, which was declared to be in a state of famine early this year. Consequently, new refugee settlements have sprung up along Uganda’s northern border with South Sudan every few months.
The great challenge for Uganda is that 82% of the South Sudanese refugees are women and children, as well as many thousands of unaccompanied vulnerable children who have fled without their parents; 61% are children under 18; and 3% are the elderly. In the European crisis, 70% of the refugees were men.
It has, however provided iAID with an opportunity to work with the Ugandan Prime Minister’s Office to assess conditions and then research and identify what technologies can be employed to assist with clean water, clean energy, power for charging phones and mapping the movement of the refugees”.
Cooking over an open fire with wood, charcoal or coal might seem like a healthy way to live, but the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that many millions of people in underprivileged populations in Latin America, Africa and Asia die each year from the direct and indirect effects of cooking with these solid fuels. In addition, there is the devastating environmental impact of deforestation caused by felling trees for cooking and heating fuel. A safe and sustainable solution to this issue is one of the UN global objectives.
Using organic waste to produce methane gas is not a new concept. For the past 20-30 years very primitive and basic methane-producing composting devices that are difficult to install and operate have been in use in developing countries like China and India. But, the difference between a composter and a bio-digester is that composters generate untreated methane gas, which is actually harmful to the atmosphere. Bio-digesters take organic waste and convert it into a fuel known as biogas. Bio-digesters use an anaerobic process where oxygen is removed and bacteria is used to breakdown the waste into their components, a combination of methane gas and carbon dioxide.
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Figures – Uganda and the Global Refugee Crisis
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) figures from June 2017 estimate 65.6 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced (internal displacement and refugees/asylum-seekers). That is, 28,300 people each day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution or 20 people every minute.
More than half of the world’s 22.5 million refugees come from 3 countries. South Sudan is the world’s 3rd largest refugee population after Syria and Afghanistan.
When Westerns think about the global migrant crisis, they mainly focus on Europe’s struggle to accommodate large numbers of refugees. The reality is that Europe hosts 17% of displaced people; the Middle East and North Africa hosts 26%; while Sub-Saharan Africa hosts 30%, in some of the world’s poorest nations, who are the least equipped to handle the influx.
Since December 2013, brutal conflict in South Sudan has claimed thousands of lives and driven nearly 4 million people from their homes in a country of about 12 million. While many South Sudanese remain displaced inside the country, nearly 2.5 million have fled to neighbouring countries in a desperate bid to reach safety.
South Sudan is facing the highest level of food insecurity it has ever seen. Each day 6 million people are struggling to find enough food. The UN says almost 276,000 people are estimated to be severely malnourished and in need of immediate lifesaving aid. At the height of the famine, at least 30% of the population faced severe malnutrition and 1 in 5,000 people died every day, with the lack of clean water remaining as much a threat as the lack of food.
The African nation of Uganda, which sits in a volatile and conflict-ridden region, today hosts the world’s 3rd largest refugee population. To date, Uganda has accepted 51% of South Sudan’s refugees (over 1 million people) who are spread out across multiple camps and settlements in the northwestern part of Uganda. 82% of these are women and children (many unaccompanied), with 61% being children (under 18) as of August 2017.
Uganda deserves much praise for maintaining open borders to refugees and for its progressive approach to asylum. It has a very generous and compassionate refugee policy, which provides refugees with land on which to build a shelter and grow crops, gives them freedom of movement and the right to work, and grants them access to public services such as health care and education. In 2016 Uganda accepted more refugees than all of those who crossed the Mediterranean into Europe.
Uganda is home to the single largest refugee settlement on earth – Bidi Bidi. In mid 2016, Bidi Bidi was a small grassland town dotted with a few small buildings and homes. Today, it is home to 285,000 South Sudanese refugees and asylum-seekers. It has been closed to new arrivals since December 2016 to prevent overcrowding. But since then new refugee settlements have opened roughly every two months.
Uganda’s extraordinarily progressive and open-door policy to refugees means many South Sudanese are expected to stay in Uganda indefinitely. But the influx of so many people is placing an enormous strain on the country and the aid agencies trying to assist them.
Uganda’s refugee intake now dwarfs European countries as the South Sudan crisis has worsened. In 2016, it was Greece and Turkey that bore the brunt of the world’s worst refugee crisis. The media focused on stories about the million refugees flooding into Europe, fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East or Africa. Now an even bigger refugee crisis is unfolding, but as there is less world interest in Africa, there is sadly less media focus and by default less financial humanitarian support.
Time are tough in Uganda too. With one of the worst droughts in over 50 years hitting parts of East Africa, more than 11 million people in Uganda have food insecurity and 1.6 million are on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government. Most of the South Sudanese refugee camps in northwest Uganda are located in the region of the West Nile where prolonged dry spells, low agricultural production and water shortage has resulted in reduced purchasing power due to food price increases and the refugee influx constraining access to food and services.
While praising Uganda for accepting so many refugees, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the country is now massively overstretched. UN agencies and NGOs are struggling to provide enough food, water, medicines and other services needed to sustain such a huge population. The Ugandan Government is seeking around $8 billion in humanitarian assistance.
The UNHCR is calling on donors to provide US$883.5 million for South Sudan refugee operations, of which only 32% has been funded as of October 2017.
Over 18 million people in Africa are of concern to the UNHCR, partly due to ongoing crises in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan and new conflicts erupting in Burundi and Yemen.