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Congolese Refugees in Uganda
Violence has been intensifying in DRC with dire consequences for the country and surrounding region. While more than 4 million Congolese are displaced inside the country, according to the UNHCR, more than half a million people have fled into neighbouring countries, including Uganda which is now hosting over 276 570 Congolese refugees .
People have lost everything
Aid agencies, including CARE, have already mobilised their own resources to fill gaps, but more funding is needed for emergency preparedness and response. More than 69000 Congolese have arrived in Uganda since the beginning of the year, fleeing inter communal violence in eastern Congo. Most have suffered unimaginable human rights’ abuses and experienced and / or witnessed atrocities. Many have lost their loved ones during their flight or had to leave them behind because they were too old or too sick to run away. The majority arrive exhausted, thirsty, hungry, and traumatised, having spent several days fleeing their homes. They are in need of immediate lifesaving assistance, psycho-social support, education, protection and help to rebuild their lives.
The majority of refugees are women and girls, many have experienced one or more forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV) while fleeing DRC. CARE recently led a GBV Assessment in collaboration with a number of aid agencies that found massive human rights abuses by various armed groups inside Congo and, in some cases, at the border.
The recent outbreak of cholera at a number of sites is posing a further risk to Congolese refugees and their Ugandan host communities. The Ugandan Ministry of Health confirmed over 2012 cases with 42 deaths. Cholera, an acute infectious disease, is spread through eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water. If not treated, it can quickly be fatal.
Uganda is already hosting close to 1.4 million refugees, including over 1 million fleeing conflict and violence in South Sudan, leaving the country with reduced capacity to face another massive influx of refugees. Many Congolese are arriving into Uganda’s densely populated west and south west, limiting space for large scale refugee settlements.
CARE is on the ground
CARE Uganda conducted a Rapid Gender Analysis and a GBV Assessment to inform its response in both GBV, and Sexual and Reproductive Health at Kyangwali, a refugee settlement in the west of the country about 30 kilometers from the shores of Lake Albert through which refugees from Ituri Province have been arriving since late December. Many travel to safety by fishing boats from the Congolese side of the lake, a perilous journey taking as much as eight hours.
CARE has established a Women and Girls’ Center at Kagoma Reception Center and in Maratatu settlement at Kyangwali, and we are currently setting up additional centers inside the settlement with support of funding from the Danish Emergency Relief Fund (DERF). The centers are safe spaces where GBV survivors, and women and girls who feel at risk receive support including immediate counseling and psychosocial support, as well as assistance in accessing critical services including health and shelter.
With support from UNFPA, CARE is also distributing dignity kits to women and girls containing soap, sanitary pads and other items to help them manage their periods. This critical support aims to restore dignity after the horrifying experiences and humiliation suffered by the women and girls. We are also training 35 volunteers from within the refugee community to raise awareness in and around gender based violence and sexual and reproductive health issues and inform the refugees of their rights to protection and where to access services. Through these volunteers and our Women and Girls’ Centers, CARE also identifies pregnant women and lactating mothers for referral to health facilities for monitoring, safe delivery and nutritional support. The volunteers also identify GBV cases in their communities, document those as well as provide necessary assistance (incl. psychosocial support) and linking the people in need with services they require (legal, medical etc.). CARE will also be providing medical staff with specialised trainings (e.g. on clinical management of rape and emergency obstetric and newborn care). “While we are grateful for the support we were able to mobilize from our donors, more is needed to expand and sustain services. Funding is short term but refugees who are here are not planning to go back in the short term and more continue to arrive daily,” says Delphine Pinault, CARE Country Director in Uganda.
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Uganda: Country Statistics
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