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Refugees Abandon Plots in Nakivale over Poor Social services

Lachin Hasanova, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Head of Field Office at Nakivale notes that the settlement has inadequate social services. Hasanova explains that unlike the base camp at Nakivale which has adequate services, Rubondo Zone lacks some of the essential services among others electricity and a stable telecommunication network.
Refugees Fetch water at a borehole in Rubondo Zone in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Isingiro District on August 2 2022.

Audio 4

New refugees arriving in Uganda and being settled in Nakivale Refugee Settlement, Isingiro District are abandoning plots of land allocated to them by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) due to poor social services.

Hundreds of refugees currently fleeing unrest from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo are being settled by the Office of the Prime Minister in Rubondo Zone, one of the areas accommodating new arrivals registered from Kisoro district. Each of them is allocated a 30-by-30 meter piece of land for their accommodation needs.

But Lachin Hasanova, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Head of Field Office at Nakivale notes that the settlement has inadequate social services. Hasanova explains that unlike the base camp at Nakivale which has adequate services, Rubondo Zone lacks some of the essential services among others electricity and a stable telecommunication network.

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She says that the scarcity of essential services has forced some of the new refugees to abandon the plots allocated to them and instead relocate to the already congested base camp. Hasanova says a partner is already conducting documentation and assessment at Rubondo Zone to understand the needs, and gaps in services.

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She also notes that access to basic necessities of life still remains a big challenge for refugees but mostly new arrivals in the settlement arguing that only about five per cent of the total population of refugees in the settlement are well-off.

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Mark Mutawe, the Commandant of Nakivale Refugee Settlement acknowledges that Rubondo Zone is facing a big gap in providing sufficient social services to new arrivals, especially in areas of health and education.

Mutawe notes that initially, social services at the settlement had been planned for about 15,000 individuals but notes that the high influx of refugees has put pressure on service delivery. For instance, Rubondo Zone now homes to about 44,000 refugees still has only one Health Center II and only three primary schools.

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He also notes that the settlement is facing a dire scarcity of water and that they are currently rationing water for refugees. Mutawe says that the water shortage is a concern since it can result in hygiene-related complications owing to the use of unsafe water but, he adds, they are working closely with partners to see that the water reservoir is expanded.

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One of the refugees who has since abandoned a plot of land at Rubondo Zone and now staying with her relative at the base camp told Uganda Radio Network on condition of anonymity that the area allocated was too remote. She notes that despite being an expectant mother she hadn't been able to access antenatal healthcare since the only health facility is more than five kilometres away.

"I was afraid that I may develop complications if I continue staying in the remote land allocated to me, I left with my two children (aged five and seven years) and now accessing better antenatal health services here," she said the land given to her is being rented by another refugee.

According to OPM and UNHCR, since January this year, more than 900 refugees cross into the country through Kisoro every week and are settled in Nakivale Refugee Settlement. The refugee settlement currently has a total of 151,000 refugees consisting of 10 Nationalities from the African Continent majority of whom are Congolese refugees.