Children at Risk as Funding for Refugee Response Dwindles

1612 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Uganda currently hosts about 810,000 refugees from South Sudan, 58 percent of who are children. Within the existing refugee settlements and their host communities, the unprecedented influx is outstripping the available resources and capacity of government and partner organizations to appropriately respond.

The inadequate funding of the South Sudan refugee crisis is depriving children of vital protection, health and education services, according to a statement issued by Save the Children.

The statement comes on the heels of an appeal by the UN refugee agency-UNHCR and the Government of Uganda for urgent and massive support to the thousands of refugees who continue to arrive in Uganda, fleeing brutal conflict, compounded by the limited availability of food.

Uganda currently hosts about 810,000 refugees from South Sudan, 58 percent of who are children. Within the existing refugee settlements and their host communities, the unprecedented influx is outstripping the available resources and capacity of government and partner organizations to appropriately respond.

UNHCR has raised only USD 90.5 million of the USD 251.1 million required for the response in 2017 leaving a funding gap of USD 160.6 million. This has resulted in shortages in delivery of vital social services, with the risk of further deterioration in access.

"Our biggest concern right now is that the under funding of the response means that children, who comprise more than half of the total population, do not have access to adequate protection from abuse, health, nutrition, and education services in the settlements," said Save the Children Uganda Country Director Brechtje van Lith. 

Basic health and nutrition services in the settlements have been stretched to their limit by the unprecedented numbers of refugees. In the newly opened settlements, there is inadequate access to clean water and poor sanitation and hygiene standards. Many children are malnourished, and malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections are common ailments.

Similarly, out of 36,900 children of primary school-going age in Bidibidi settlement-Yumbe district, which hosts the largest number of South Sudanese refugees, only 52 percent (19,188) have access to education. The limited numbers of newly established primary schools within the settlements are overcrowded.

Many of the children come to Uganda on their own, having been separated from or lost their parents during flight. Bidibidi, the largest camp hosting South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, has 4,638 unaccompanied and separated children registered.

These children often get lured into marriage, child labour to meet survival needs, as well as face exposure to sexual and physical abuse, particularly while under the care of adults other than their parents/guardians. The need for psychosocial support and other remedial services to enable children cope with the trauma of war and flight from home, and other protection needs is also very high.   

The crisis demands a comprehensive response by the international community in support of Government-led efforts and good will to continue meeting the needs of a rapidly growing number of South Sudanese refugees.

"Save the Children calls on the donor community to step up funding to support the Government, UN and humanitarian agencies to further scale up the response to the crisis, in line with the needs of the growing population," said Van Lith.

Van Lith added that "Without the desperately needed funding, government and all partners involved in the response cannot make the required investment in children to save their lives, meet their needs in dignity and ultimately equip them with the knowledge and skills required to break the enduring cycle of violence and build durable peace and progress in South Sudan."

 

About the author

Sylvia Nankya
Sylvia is an Editor and Media Trainer with Uganda Radio Network. She has been a URN staff member since 2013. Sylvia has previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Radio One (2001-2009) and with Vision Group (2009-2011). Six of her active years in Journalism were spent covering the Parliament of Uganda.

Over the past few years, Sylvia has worked to promote the positive development of societies recovering from conflict through training journalists on choices of stories, how they report issues and use of appropriate language in covering conflict and post-conflict situations.

She is an Alumni of RNTC- Holland, Les Aspin Centre for Government at Marquette University-WI, USA and a Community Solutions Fellow.