The Swedish government has donated $4 million to support maternal health and the health of newborn and under-fives’ among South Sudanese refugees at the Bidibidi camp in West Nile Uganda.
Last week, the Swedish embassy signed an agreement with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) to help reduce maternal, new-born, and child morbidity and mortality, and to improve child growth and development by strengthening the health sector in West Nile, where health services are stretched by an influx of refugees.
The funding is expected to benefit some 135,000 pregnant women and over 300,000 children. The grant will also cover host communities.
“The humanitarian response is today severely underfunded and the Swedish contribution will ensure that more people receive life-saving support while also aiming at finding more durable solutions,” said Per Lindgärde the Swedish ambassador to Uganda.
The latest funding doubles Swedish humanitarian support to Uganda to $8.6 million to support the increasing number of South Sudanese refugees.
Sweden had previously donated $4.3 million for provisional shelter, health services and treatment of malnourished children, and creating opportunities for livelihoods for the refugees.
According to Unicef, West Nile sub-region is among the most disadvantaged areas of Uganda, with low rates of immunisation, high rates of unattended births, high rates of malaria, diarrhoea and HIV/Aids. As a result, it has one of the highest under-five mortality rates in the country, at 125 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with the national average of 90.
Uganda is hosting over half a million refugees and asylum seekers from South Sudan. Unicef representative Aida Girma said at least 300,000 more are expected to arrive in 2017.
“These funds therefore come at a critical time and will help to save children’s and mother’s lives, both from within the South Sudanese refugee community as well as the local communities,” she said.
Since 2013, with a contribution of over $3 million, the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency has been supporting a similar programme in Karamoja.
So far, it has helped more than 22,000 pregnant women deliver their babies in health facilities, provided 68 health facilities with emergency equipment and trained 162 health workers.