Uganda: Fighting in neighbouring DRC sends refugees across the border

The Ugandan government has appealed for support as tens of thousands of refugees cross into Uganda after fleeing fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

About 30,000 refugees have crossed into southwestern Uganda, following an upsurge in fighting between government and rebel troops in North Kivu, Congo.

The refugees have strained social infrastructure, including health and sanitation facilities. About 100 refugee children are separated from their families.

The Ugandan government is seeking assistance with the provision of temporary shelter, bedding, medicine, water, and sanitation.

It has also endeavoured to relocate refugees away from the border areas, where they may be vulnerable to further attacks.

As a result, most of the refugees have been transferred to Kamwenge district, western Uganda, where ten refugee camps have been established to accommodate them.

However, more than 5,000 people have resisted relocation efforts and remain in transit centers in the border area of Kisoro.

In response to the unfolding situation, World Vision has dispatched a team to Kisoro to conduct an assessment that will inform the organisation’s response.

Meanwhile in Kamwenge, World Vision staff report that key areas of concern are inadequate water supply and sanitation facilities, creating a high risk of disease outbreaks.

Other areas of concern include nutrition, education, and child protection.

Albert Siminyu, national director for World Vision in Uganda, says children are especially vulnerable because they are exposed to situations that they are ill-equipped to handle.

“Child protection is critical given the levels of sexual violence associated with war,” he says.

“We are also concerned about their education, given that the greater number of refugees is children under 15 years of age.”

World Vision anticipates working in close cooperation with the government and United Nations agencies to map out a strategy to address the crisis.

More than 200,000 people have fled recent fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A rebel group, known as M23, took up arms in April after defecting from the Congolese armed forces, complaining of poor conditions. They named themselves M23 after a failed peace agreement that was signed three years ago on March 23.

With reporting by Gilbert Kadilo, a World Vision Uganda communications manager.