Less South Sudan refugees fleeing to Uganda despite fighting back home

According to the situation report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number in June went down to over 600 from the 2,000 recorded daily several months ago.

Katherine Wainwright, Senior External Relations Associate UNHCR Uganda, told Xinhua on Tuesday by telephone that the reduction could be attributed to several factors.

She highlighted one as the ongoing rainy season which impedes the movement of refugees.

She said the majority of the refugees move through bushes to cross to Uganda fearing to be arrested by armed groups who mount road blocks.

«Almost everyone that comes across is travelling through the bush for many days. This becomes more difficult obviously in the rain season,» she said.

The other factor is said to be reduced fighting near the border of the two countries. This reduces the fleeing.

Wainwright said although the number of those fleeing reduced, the refugee crisis has not gone down. She noted that the refugees are still in dire need of humanitarian help.

She said in the next several days, the number of South Sudan refugees who have crossed to Uganda is going to hit 1 million. They are currently over 990,000, according to Uganda government figures.

According UNHCR, there are ongoing preparations to re-open up a refugee settlement in the northwestern district of Arua to cater for the increasing numbers.

Uganda is Africa’s leading refugee-hosting country, having jumped from the eighth largest refugee-hosting country in the world in mid-2016 to the third largest today, after Turkey and Pakistan.

UN figures show that the country hosts more than 1.2 million refugees from neighboring countries like South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda, among others.

Although Uganda has been hailed for its open refugee policy that avails land for cultivation and refugees with skills allowed to work, such huge numbers are placing pressure on state and host community resources, especially social services like health and education.

Uganda and the UN late last month hosted a refugee summit aimed at raising money to cater for the refugees.

According to the UN, Uganda needs 8 billion dollars to cater for refugees over the next four years.

During the summit, 358 million dollars was made in pledges.

Experts have argued that whereas it is critical to address the refugee crisis, the root causes have to be addressed too.

There are ongoing efforts to stop the fighting in South Sudan, both at regional levels and through intermediaries.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is leading efforts to end the fighting by bringing the warring parties together.

Last week, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and part of the rebel delegation were in Uganda to devise ways of ending the fighting.