By Patrick S., Kyangwali News Bureau | Kasonga
In 2019, all those refugees who had been removed from food rations by UNHCR were returned to the system after massive resettlement of thousands of refugees from the DRC. This was because new arrivals covered almost three quarters of the settlement land yet the other refugees depended on farming. Recently, the UNHCR had introduced a system of giving out both food and cash to those refugees who were interested. Because the Kyangwali refugee settlement had already been settled in almost all of its area, the distribution points were also changed to minimize long distances for some people who came from deep ends of the camp. This was done after the general verification in 2018 by UNHCR.
About 15,000 refugees in kyangwali have been supporting themselves and their families through farming since 2006 and the years before, they still did farming because they had relatively bigger land. They have been stopped from farming and since their gardens have been given to the new arrivals, life has seemed so hard since most of them have even been educating their children out of the farms, but now, there is no more farming. Generally, all refugees are complaining about the amount of money they are being given per month. Each person receives a sum of 31,000/= Ugandan shillings which means each person needs to use 1,000/= for their breakfast, lunch and supper each day.
On the days of distribution, most mothers sleep at the distribution centers just to lineup and secure front positions so they can receive their rations early and get back home early to prepare food for their families. This is because the settlement has got fewer distribution centers of which some people find it very far to reach the same day. Therefore the mothers make groups to safely sleep at the centers a day before to catch up for the next day.. Mothers continue to sound the cry of how they are suffering even to get the small money which can even feed their family for just a week, can’t give any medication support or perhaps help with educating their children. Put it simply: the money from distribution is not enough to cater for a typical refugee family.
Mothers have been beaten at the distribution centers during the activity of giving out food and cash to the refugees. Strong men and those who bribe the security personnel tend to bypass the lines and take front positions. The weak and poor are left without help even if they arrived at the center earlier. It’s purely survival of the fittest. Security personnel do not take reports of such incidences seriously; instead they send away those who try to raise complaints about what is going on. Refugees have been saying lack of participation from their leaders in the activity that makes refugees face terrible incidences on the days of distribution. It is said that the money has been reduced from 31,000/= to 22,000/= (all in Ugandan Shillings) mainly because they want some refugees who have gotten some land to start cultivating. Only people in villages of Malembo and Mukunyu have land and can grow crops strictly to feed their families and this has prompted the World Food Program (WFP) to reduce the money each refugee receives. The question other refugees are asking are indeed serious ones: “what about us who don’t even have the land where to dig another pit latrine? Where do they think we shall cultivate? What do they think we shall feed our families?” Many of these desperate refugee families think those responsible just want them to suffer from hunger with some asking to be repatriated back to their countries and die of machetes and bullets rather than dying from hunger. You could hear a group of mothers in Maratatu shout these frustrations when I tried to talk to them asking them to share their opinions about the amounts and distribution challenges in the settlement. According to my sources, a few members of the refugees settlement have got land for cultivation which would help top up on the money given and feed their entire families whereas the majority of the refugees have got no land yet WFP continue to make the case that refugee are able to rely on subsistence farming and reduced the cash assistance. Refugees can not plant food on the land they don’t have, which is the argument here. This has affected the lives of a thousand refugees especially the young children’s health due to malnutrition or even lack of what to eat at all..
The communities have been submitting complaints through their leaders to the persons responsible but nothing has been addressed yet. Local leaders are called often on this issue specifically but the World Food Program has not responded in person.