By Paul Night
WestNile Region-People living in Uganda’s refugee hosting districts, both people from host communities and refugees are still deprived of basic services like water, sanitation and shelter.
This, according to a study on Child Poverty and Deprivation in Refugee Hosting Areas by the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), the University of Cardiff and UNICEF, which assessed child poverty, deprivation and social service delivery in refugee and host communities in West Nile, the South West, and Kampala.
EPRC’s Executive Director, Sarah Ssewanyana, said: “This study represents the first attempt to compare child poverty and deprivation in host and refugee communities in Uganda. Globally, it represents the first application of a consensual approach to measuring poverty and deprivation in emergency situations.”
As a result of the few water points, there have been cases of violence registered following fights between refugees and the host communities. According to the findings that was released today, for items perceived by the majority of the population to be necessities for children, refugee children are more deprived than children from host communities, ranging from 8 per cent to 32 per cent depending on the item.
The report says that refugee children are much less likely to receive gifts on special occasions and less likely to have new sets of clothes than host children.
UNICEF’s Representative in Uganda, Dr Doreen Mulenga, said: “We need to go beyond emergency response to build the systems and capacities of all social services in refugee hosting districts. Only by doing so that with health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation, and child protection services, among others will we reduce the multiple deprivations experienced by tens of thousands of refugee children and children in host communities.”
The leaders of the districts in West Nile region that are hosting South Sudan refugees have always complained of refugees straining their resources like roads, water, sanitation and environment. The LC5 Chairman for Maracha district, Mr Lawrence Adiga, said most parts of the district are left bare due to cutting of Eucalyptus trees.
“Since the refugees came, most of the forests that we had have been cut for poles and firewood because the people want money. They sell these poles for construction of houses in the refugee camps. We need to reverse this trend otherwise we shall soon have a desert,” Adiga said.
Overall, both refugee and host communities experience a significant level of deprivation. Although conditions for refugees improve over time, basic needs deprivation among hosts remains high – in some cases higher than among refugees, such as water and shelter in West Nile.
The study recommends to expand access to basic social services and improve quality and efficiency, improve institutional mechanisms for delivering social services, boost household food security, introduce the accelerated education programme.
It notes that there was need for provision of employment and livelihood support to urban refugees; foster better cohesion and integration between refugees and hosts, improve the balance between refugee and host community programming, and routinely monitor multidimensional poverty in humanitarian contexts to inform programming.