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Food, Firewood Crisis Hits New Congolese Refugees in Uganda :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Food, Firewood Crisis Hits New Congolese Refugees in Uganda

Lachin Hasanova, the UNHCR head of the Field Office at Nakivale Settlement Camp says they are partnering with other humanitarian aid agencies to start supplying briquettes to the newly arriving refugees
A girl Child refugee carrying firewood at Rubondo settlement Zone in Isingiro district

Audio 4

Food and firewood for cooking have hit Congolese refugees newly living in Rubondo settlement zone in Isingiro district.

Rubondo settlement is under Nakivale refugee camp. So far the zone accommodates a total number of 21,573 Congolese refugees and is still able to accommodate more than 10,000, according to information from the refugees’ department of the Office of the Prime Minister -OPM and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) at Nakivale refugees camp. 

Refugees are relocated to Rubondo from Nyakabande transit centre in Kisoro district.   These are the civilian victims who fled fighting between Congolese government troops FARDC and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province that started in March this year. 

UNHCR and OPM are sending more refugees to Rubondo settlement zone from Nyakabande transit centre in Kisoro district as a way of totally decamping it. Refugees had stayed at Nyakabande since March this year contrary to United Nations guidelines limiting them to stay in a transit centre for more than two months.

The fighting ended with the Uganda-DR Congo border of Bunagana (on the DR Congo side) on June 13 and neighbouring areas of Runyoni, Tcyanzu, Gisiza, Gasiza, Bugusa, Ceya, Mukingo, Bikeke, Ruseke, Shangi, Kabindi, and Tchengerero, falling in the hands of M23 rebels, after more than 150 FARDC soldiers who were manning fleeing to Uganda.

The fall of Bunagana in the hands of M23 rebels has left Lt. Gen. Yav Philemon Irung and Maj Gen. Peter Chirimwami, former commanders in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Colonels Désiré Lobo, and Jean-Marie Diadia wa Diadia, who were commanders of the 3,412 and 3,307th regiments at the Uganda- DR Congo border of Bunagana court-martialed.

Our reporter visited Rubondo settlement zone on Thursday and found refugees stuck with no firewood and no food. Crops such as beans and maize that some of the refugees who were relocated between March and July had planted were found still not ready for harvest.

Pauline Irene Abina, acting western region refugees’ desk officer, and Justin Gonza, the Assistant Commandant at Rubondo settlement zone in the office of the prime minister say that the cooking fuel crisis is worsened by the lack of trees in Rubondo area. 

Abina and Gonza also say that as refugees arrive at Rubondo settlement zone, each household is given only 12.6 kilograms of maize, 3 kilograms of beans, and 0.9 litres of cooking oil per month.  The supply is reduced by 60 per cent after three months and again reduced by 40 per cent after three months.  They say that the food supply is very meagre to sustain the refugees, especially those with big families.

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Emmanuel Ukwizategyeka, Jean Didier Ndayambaje Kavakure, and Jeanette Nyiramahirwe all refugees from Jomba camp in Rutshuru say that after they were relocated to Rubondo zone from Nyakabande transit centre, thought that life would fully change for the better. They however say that they are instead in a food and firewood crisis.   

The refugees now say that preparing a meal is a very difficult experience because there is no firewood in the whole area. They explain that even when they send children to collect some firewood from the nearby bushes, they are beaten by Ugandan locals.   

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Lachin Hasanova, the UNHCR head of the Field Office at Nakivale Settlement Camp says that UNHCR has already observed the two challenges. She says that they are partnering with other humanitarian aid agencies like ALIGHT to start measures of supplying briquettes to the new arrival refugees as a way of reducing the firewood problem. She also says that they will soon start training refugees on how to produce briquettes on their own. 

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On the food crisis, Hasanova appeals for more help from World Food Program to extend 100 per cent supply from three to six months. 

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