Already stretched by hosting more than a million South Sudan refugees since December 2013, Uganda now is dealing with a fresh influx of asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are fleeing inter-communal violence in the country’s volatile Ituri region.
The latest numbers from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released at the end of last month indicate that December alone recorded 6,314 new arrivals after the escalation of violence in the Ituri region from December 18.
READ: Uganda struggles to cope with 1m South Sudanese refugees
This brings the total number of Congolese refugees in Uganda to 236,271, of which 43,000 arrived between January and November 2017.
Most of the December arrivals entered Uganda by crossing Lake Albert on fishing boats, while the rest came through the border points of Kisoro, Kanungu and Bundibugyo districts in south western Uganda.
Others who crossed via Lake Albert are from North Kivu.
The UNHCR’s senior external relations associate Katherine Wainwright says these reported that the route to Uganda’s south western border, is unsafe and that families were being separated due to the journey’s high cost exit fees that are reportedly imposed by armed groups on the Congolese side of the lake and forced recruitment of young men.
The refugees are mostly women and children.
The influx is already putting a strain on the available resources, with the UN Refugee Agency reporting that 3,756 of the new arrivals were transferred from Lake Albert landing sites to Kagoma reception centre in the Kyangwali refugee settlement.
But at Kagoma, the refugees are facing a challenge of inadequate supply of safe drinking water, with each person given 10 litres of water per day, which the UNHCR is working with partners to raise to the emergency standard minimum of 15 litres per day.
The agency also says that another 1,512 of the new Congolese refugees have been allocated a plot of land in Marembo C at Kyangwali and provided with shelter materials and non-food items.
The new arrivals compound the emergency situation for asylum seekers in Uganda, which last year become host of the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis with South Sudanese refugees crossing the one million mark.
READ: Shrinking land opens new challenge facing South Sudanese refugees
According to a UNHCR update on December 29, only 34 per cent of the $674.25 million requested for the South Sudanese refugee response programme in Uganda is funded, leaving a gap of 66 per cent.
Feeling the burden of accommodating refugees, Uganda president Yoweri Museveni and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hosted the Refugee Solidarity Summit in Kampala, hoping to use the occasion to get the attention of the international to raise $2 billion. But they only managed only $358 million.
The Ugandan and Rwandan governments are also said to have struck a deal with Israel to resettle about 38,000 Eritrean, Ethiopian and Sudanese refugees that had sought asylum in Israel but are being expelled from the Middle Eastern country.