Respond to urgent needs to create a sense of security
(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and its partners in southwestern Uganda are responding to a new wave of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fleeing violence. The population increase has resulted in a shortage of basic resources and services, forcing the LWF to urgently scale up assistance and protection with its partners.
Large wave of refugees flee to Uganda for safety
The recent upsurge in fighting between rebels and government forces in the DRC led to more than 7,500 refugees arriving in Rwamwanja refugee camp in February and March. In 2021, the settlement, located in Uganda’s southwestern Kamwenge district, was home to 76,000 residents, 1,000 of whom have special needs. Typically, newly arrived refugees are settled in their new Rwamwanja homes in groups. Once one group was installed, the next was integrated. The sudden and large volume of arrivals disrupted the regular reception process, increasing the need for services and humanitarian assistance.
Coping with and improving access will require the combined efforts of partners, donors, government and the host community. The LWF has a strong response, but more resources are still needed to properly respond to needs.
LWF quality service programs aim to fill gaps in resources, basic needs, livelihoods, protection and water, sanitation and health (WASH). Through the Uganda Cash Consortium, the LWF meets the immediate basic needs of the most vulnerable newly arrived refugees with multipurpose cash assistance. The cash assistance is supported by funding from the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO).
Yelemia Sembuka, 34, a recently arrived refugee, said: “Security in Uganda is good because we sleep without any disturbance or fear at night. The major challenge is water as the nearest borehole is two kilometers away. We also don’t have a latrine and the health facility is far from our house.
Within three weeks of the response, the LWF completed drilling three of the five boreholes with funding from the ACT Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LWF has also started supporting solid waste management at the Mahani Reception Center and is providing fuel for the Nkoma Katalyeba Municipal Council waste collection truck as well as technical supervision.
Increasing resources to close the gap
“In recent days, we have seen the refugee situation worsen,” said Ambrose Ogwang-Sub, LWF program officer in Rwamwanja. “So far, we have welcomed more than 7,500 unplanned refugees who urgently need water, livelihoods and protection services. Scarcity has created a sense of competition for existing resources. Coping with and improving access will require the combined efforts of partners, donors, government and the host community. The LWF has a strong response, but more resources are still needed to properly respond to needs.
Support of bread for the world helps fill some of the gaps. However, as the influx of refugees continues, additional resources are essential to ensure that vulnerable populations already there and newly arriving refugees have access to safe water, sanitation, food and to physical security. The main components of the LWF response include supporting households of people with special needs with cooking fuel, agricultural tools and seeds for fast-maturing crops to supplement staple foods. In times of conflict, providing psychosocial support to people with mental distress and other protection needs is also a fundamental aspect of the LWF’s strategic approach.
As resources become scarce, the additional support and continued engagement of the LWF and its partners is essential for communities in Rwamwanja to address emerging gaps in quality services, protection and social cohesion as well as means of subsistence.
By LWF/T. Rakoto