Ahead of the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees, which will be held June 22-23 in Kampala, Amnesty International has spoken out against the lack of support to Uganda to help deal with the over 900,000 refugees there. These refugees have fled from the brutal conflict in South Sudan.
At least 86% of the refugees in Uganda are women and children. The lack of funding from donor countries means that many of them do not have food, water, or shelter.
''Uganda has remained welcoming and generous at a time when many countries are closing their borders on refugees, but it is under incredible strain as funds dry up and thousands continue to cross from South Sudan every day,'' said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, Horn and Great Lakes. ''Donors, including the US, EU countries, Canada, China and Japan, must step up support for Uganda by ensuring timely funding for refugees' immediate and long-term needs. These refugees must not become the latest victims of a collective and shameful failure of international cooperation,'' he continued.
''Amnesty International's researchers visited refugee settlements in four districts in northern Uganda - Adjumani, Moyo, Yumbe and Arua - and saw firsthand the impact of these funding difficulties. Refugees and aid agencies spoke of a desperate lack of food, water, shelter and other basic services due to funding shortfalls. Support for vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly, was also severely lacking.'' The refugees in Uganda fled some of the worst periods of violence seen in the southen region Equatoria since December 2013, when the conflict began in South Sudan.
Testimonies from refugees
Amnesty International spoke to over 80 refugees in Uganda ''who all gave horrific accounts of torture, indiscriminate killings, rape, and widespread looting''. Joyce, 37, saw soldiers stab her husband multiple times until he was dead. "After arresting him, they didn't even use a single bullet, they used knives and just stabbed him until he died," she said. Jane, 28, was raped by three men in uniform after they broke into her home and shot her husband dead. "The reason I left is because… my husband was killed. They got us at the house and shot him and started raping me," she said.
19 year old Patrick described to Amnesty International how he and his brother were detained in a container with two other men at a military barracks in Nyepo town. "Every night, we were taken out one by one blindfolded, interrogated and beaten. They had pliers… they would pinch and twist our fingers," he said. Patrick eventually managed to escape, but has still yet to find out whether his brother is still alive.
Long-term help for these refugees who have experienced high levels of trauma, including psychosocial support, is not widely available due to lack of funding, the report noted. As of May 2017, only 18% of the required funding for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to provide for South Sudan refugees in Uganda, had been met. UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP) and 57 aid agencies have since appealed for more than $1.4bn to provide vital support including food and shelter by the end of 2017.