Uganda is home to 1.5 million refugees, the most hosted by any African country. An open-door policy allows refugees to live freely and settle anywhere. Most choose to stay in settlements where they are given land to farm by the government. New arrivals, such as those coming in from DRC, live in holding centres. Here they wait to see if the situation in their countries is improving, and they can return home. Or if they must start a new life in a new country.
Uganda is hosting 20,000 refugees who have fled fresh fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since March, up to 500 refugees a day have been silently streaming into the east African country via Kisoro.
“When you hear bullets, you run and try to save your life. You take what you can and leave behind everything else.”
The journey to safety is hard and unfamiliar. People often travel long distances on an empty stomach – pelted by the rain, scorched by the sun and sleeping under trees when night falls.
“They reach the border tired and hungry,” says Emily Doe, the area representative for the World Food Programme (WFP).
At the transit centre, the WFP will give them special high-energy biscuits to revive them. Medical teams will screen them for malnutrition and give them nutritious food if they need it. The Ugandan government will work with the UNHCR to register and provide them with shelter.
Last year, the WFP gave $44m ($35m) in cash and nearly 80,000 tonnes of food to refugees. This is only a fraction of what refugees need to survive. Even with the generous support of donors such as the EU, US and China, the WFP is unable to provide full food rations to refugees. The refugees most in need receive a 70% ration while the relatively less vulnerable receive a 40% ration. All new arrivals receive full food assistance for a month.