It’s lunch time and 28-year-old Grace Daaba sits under a small tree on a plastic mat with her five children. The eldest is 13 and the youngest 10 months, and they all scramble for a little boiled cassava in a saucepan.
Grace is one of the more than 22 000 South Sudanese refugees now camped at Pagirinyi settlement camp in Adjumani district 450km from Kampala in northern Uganda.
The former resident of Pageri village in Nimule, South Sudan, arrived at the camp on July 28.
Pointing at her mud and wattle makeshift house covered with an old plastic covering branded UNHCR she said: “My neighbour helped me with that cover. I wasn’t given one on arrival and even this mat we are sitting on was given to me by my sister.”
On arrival at the settlement camp, apart from a basin of maize flour, five cups of beans and a three litre can of cooking oil, Grace was also gazetted 30 by 30 square metres of land.
Under the Uganda National Development Plan Refugee Policy, the government gazettes land for refugee settlements and gives them plots for agricultural use. This is usually done after the government negotiates for land with leaders of the host community.
Grace’s house provides very little comfort from either the cold nights or the rainy days. The poles holding the “roof” are slowly being eaten up by termites. To enter the house, she has to bend low.
“I arrived here with just my children; I do not know where my husband went after the fighting broke out.”
Inside are bags stuffed with clothes, several plastic cans and basins filled with water.
On the right is a small mattress atop an old wooden bed.
“My brother, who is blind and dumb, sleeps here. I sleep down with the children,” she explains as she sits on her mattress laid atop a papyrus mat on the bare floor.
At the height of the South Sudan crisis that broke out on July 7, the now over 90 000 refugees that fled to Uganda had to deal with torrential rains that pounded the settlement camps.
A week into the rains, the UNHCR and the Ugandan government confirmed there was an outbreak of cholera at the Pagirinyi settlement camp.
The refugees are expected to not only build their own shelter but also dig latrines. The Ugandan Commissioner for Refugees David Kazungu in an interview said: “Previously we used to dig latrines for them, but now support is only given to the vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.”
The development of newly opened settlement areas in Adjumani and Yumbe districts require significant additional investment to improve infrastructure in the camps among other services.
Unfortunately, several pleas by the UNHCR for more funding seem to have gone unanswered by the international community.
Countries in the Horn of
Africa including Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and now Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are straining under the weight of large numbers of displaced people.