Facts for refugees in Uganda provided by Fred Taban – January 2019:
Maize grains 11.7 Kgs
Beans 9.5 Kgs
Cooking oil 0.9 Litres
Salt 0.15 Kgs
The lack of food, combined with a deterioration in the quality of food distributed to the refugees has led to increased food insecurity in the camps. This amount of food per person is not enough to last for a month and is often spoilt. The lack of available land for farming worsens the situation further, and refugees are unable to cultivate crops as an alternative source of food.
Only 43% of the population has access to water taps that are within 200 meters. In addition, there are over 450 people per water tank, borehole or tap, far exceeding the UNHCR standard of 200 persons per water pump.
It is essential for refugees to receive an adequate supply of good quality water because water has an impact on so many vital sectors of society, including nutrition, health, education and sanitation. The UNHCR estimates that more than half of the refugee camps are unable to provide the recommended daily water minimum of 20 litres of water per person per day. The quality of the water ferried by the water tankers is dirty and contaminated making it not safe for human consumption.
Though it is important to provide adequate quantities of water, the water quality and hygiene is also of the utmost importance. Even if the water that is provided is not contaminated, the transfer of water between vessels, the storage of water in the home, and people’s hand coming into contact with the inside of water vessels all increase the risk of contamination. There are a lack of public health initiatives focusing on hygiene education in order to endeavour to reduce the incidence of contamination.
It is also important for water to be readily accessible, and taps should be centrally located. As the water taps are often far away, children are often required to collect water for their families, thereby interrupting their schooling. In addition, the physical burden of water collection grows greatly.
The growing burden of water collection means that now more often than before women and children have to walk longer distances in search of water. Many of the water tanks that were used for water delivery are no more working therefore those refugees who relied on these tanks have to walk further for water. The water queues get longer as with the dry period demand for water increases and more fights are witnessed at the water points.
The provision of adequate sanitation services is crucial to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and epidemics while ensuring good health and dignity. Though the importance of having adequate latrines is well documented, still 30% of refugee camps do not have adequate waste disposal services or latrines.
Education is a basic human right for all children, and it is especially important that refugee children receive education, because it creates a sense of security and hope, which is often lacking in refugee settings. Educational activities play a very important role in helping to reintroduce a sense of normality into the lives of children and parents. Educating refugees has multiple benefits and an immediate, positive, and widespread impact on society. Education teaches self-reliance, helps create the human skills needed for development, and plays a fundamental role in providing both physical and psychosocial protection for the child.
Bidi Bidi is one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. As just one example of the needs, some 55,000 children are crammed into 12 overcrowded schools lacking teachers and learning materials. “Our refugee children are studying in temporary structures,” said Robert Baryamwesiga, the settlement commandant for Bidi Bidi. According to Baryamwesiga, half of refugee children do not attend school. “Many of them are unaccompanied or separated children.” he noted.
The absence of scholarship opportunities particularly for post-primary students has caused a high rate of drop out. Children of secondary school age lack further education opportunities once they have completed primary school. The high tuition fees and lack of school catering provision in Primary schools has also reduced access to education by refugee children. This is further exacerbated by the poor quality of education, due to the congestion in classrooms and high teacher to student ratios.
Shelters (houses) are in poor condition, which has led to leaks when it rains. The condition of people’s homes is also impacted by overcrowding. Refugees don’t have access to building materials to overcome these issues.
It is said that a safely built environment, including adequate housing conditions, is one of the most important human needs. Nonetheless, a large proportion of refugees reside in inadequate shelters. Housing in refugee camps is often overcrowded and of poor quality. In the Rhino Camp refugee camps, a typical house is a small mud and stick one-room hut with a grass roof. The houses are poorly ventilated, overcrowded, and let in water when it rains. Malaria poses a huge threat to adults and children alike in refugee camps, especially where refugees live closely in overcrowded quarters.
Fred Taban – January 2019