KAMPALA, The number of South Sudan refugees in Uganda has hit the one-million mark according to figures released this week by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The past 12 months have seen an influx of refugees averaging 1,800 daily, the UNHCR says. This is in addition to a million or more other South Sudanese refugees being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

With refugees still arriving in their thousands, the amount of aid we are able to deliver is increasingly falling short. For Uganda, 674 million US dollars are needed for South Sudanese refugees this year, but so far only a fifth of this amount (21 per cent) has been received. the UNHCR reveals.

The funding shortfall in Uganda, according to the humanitarian aid agency, is now significantly impacting the abilities to deliver life-saving aid and key basic services. This has also forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations for refugees.

Across settlements in northern Uganda, health clinics are being forced to provide vital medical care with too few doctors, healthcare workers and medicines. Schooling meanwhile is also being impacted. Class sizes often exceed 200 pupils, with some lessons held in the open air. Many refugee children are dropping out of education as the nearest schools are too far away for them to easily access, reads the UNHCR statement.

In another statement, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has urged the United States and Europe not to close their doors on refugees. There is tragic irony that when Uganda is accepting its millionth refugee from South Sudan, with thousands more arriving every day, the United States and Europe, with such greater resources, are trying to close the door, said David Miliband, the President and Chief Exectuive Officer of the International Rescue Committee.

There is a lesson here. We should be giving aid to countries like Uganda but we should also be standing with them. If Uganda can open its arms to the vulnerable fleeing war, so can the western world.

The average Ugandan earns 20 times less than the average European citizen, yet when one million refugees from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq arrived in Europe in 2015, the response from too many political leaders was to build walls and fences to try and keep them out, rather than welcoming them to safety.



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