East Africa: Government to Send Relief Food to Starving Ugandans Stuck in S.Sudan

The Government of Uganda is working on modalities of sending food relief to starving Ugandans stuck in troubled South Sudan, a government official has said.

Mr Emmanuel Okecho, a Disaster Preparedness Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, said they have received reports that over 1,300 Ugandans still trapped in various parts of South Sudan are in dire need of food.

"We have got information that many people who missed out the evacuation exercise due to their distant locations are stranded and starving. Our government is working on how best they can be helped with food," Mr Okecho told Daily Monitor in an interview.

Last week, the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) evacuated over 31,000 civilians from South Sudan, majority of whom were Ugandans following a civil unrest that erupted in the Africa's youngest nation.

According to Mr Okecho, thousands of people in distant areas of Magwi, Torit, Bor, Rumbek and Yau missed out on the evacuation process because the assembling point which was in Gumbo trading center, a few kilometers from Juba city was far.

He said they got information that some of the stranded Ugandans in areas of Magwi County are hiding in bushes while others have gathered in Gumbo market and at the Ugandan Embassy in Juba waiting for assistance.

Mr Okecho, added that OPM has put aside 100 bags of Posho and 100 bags of beans at the Elegu Border in Amuru District as emergency relief for the Ugandans stuck in South Sudan.

"As OPM, we are waiting for authorization from the government and how it can best ensure safe reach of these foods to those affected. We also understand those stranded are requesting for evacuation but that will be the government's call," Mr Okecho said.

State minister for disaster preparedness and refugees Mr Musa Ecweru confirmed to Daily Monitor in a telephone interview over the weekend that they are working round the clock to ensure food is sent to those stranded in south Sudan.

"We don't want our people to starve to death in South Sudan. We have finished all the coordination with officials at the embassy in Juba but only waiting for green light from the higher authorities," Mr Ecweru said.

Fourth Division Commander Brig Muhanga Kayanja, who commanded the recent evacuation exercise, said the possibility of UPDF going back into South for another evacuation mission is very low.

He said the two states are making diplomatic consultations of ensuring a safe passage of Ugandans trapped to travel back home as opposed to another intervention of UPDF.

"For now, it's most likely that UPDF will not enter South Sudan. The regional blocs and international community have always condemned us and we need many approvals for us to again rescue our people," Brig Muhanga said.

Statistics from the United Nations Human High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) indicate that a total of 26,468 people have crossed into Uganda's northern region from south Sudan since fights erupted between forces loyal to President Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar.

Source: The Monitor.

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