Uganda Red Cross Society helps relocate 65,000 Congolese refugees

By International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
Uganda Red Cross Society helps relocate 65,000 Congolese refugees
Uganda Red Cross Society helps relocate 65,000 Congolese refugees

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Uganda Red Cross Society is mobilizing staff and volunteers to assist in the relocation of 65,500 refugees who have fled violence in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Refugees began pouring over the Ugandan border at the weekend, following an attack by rebels in the town of Kamango in the Congolese province of North Kivu. They were initially housed in primary schools, but their numbers quickly overwhelmed the host facilities. Some are now camped under trees, but many others are settling in open areas and are exposed to the elements.

“We conducted a rapid assessment to identify the immediate needs and levels of humanitarian assistance that should be extended to the refugees,” said Michael Richard Nataka, Secretary General of the Uganda Red Cross Society.

We are helping as best we can. We have been asked to manage the reception centres, register refugees and provide emergency first aid. To support that, we have deployed 50 Red Cross action team volunteers to five reception centres. An additional 50 volunteers are on standby.”

Lack of food was becoming urgent and, yesterday, the Uganda Red Cross Society started to prepare hot meals for the refugees using food delivered by the World Food Programme (WFP). The National Society has also deployed its national disaster response team and is using pre-positioned stock to support the refugee population with essential items, such as water purification tablets, family tents, jerry cans, blankets, cooking pots, mosquito nets and first-aid kits.

Health services are also vital. So far, 9,240 people have been identified as needing special attention – 8,040 are children under the age of five, and 200 are pregnant women. The Red Cross has registered 41 children who crossed into Uganda without their families and efforts are being made to re-unite them through the rapid tracing service. Psychosocial support is being provided by five trained volunteers. The host district where the refugees have settled has offered assistance, but their limited resources cannot cope with the influx.

"Given such numbers, there is the need for urgent humanitarian assistance as some of the refugees are sick and have left all their belongings in Congo," said Catherine Ntabadde, Head of Communications at the Uganda Red Cross Society.

The National Society – in partnership with UNHCR, WFP and the government of Uganda – is now in the process of moving the refugees to a transit camp, further inland in Bubukwanga sub-county. The first trucks began transporting refugees from the reception centres to the transit camp yesterday.

The Uganda Red Cross Society is working quickly to prepare the transit camp for the incoming refugees. Volunteers have cleared the site, erected 180 tents, built a communal shelter and kitchen, sunk 30 temporary latrines and 6 bathing shelters. The transit camp itself urgently requires more communal and family tents.