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Refugees Decry Harassment at Panyadoli Health Centre III

Originally established in 1990, Kiryandongo Settlement was re-opened in 2014 during the South Sudanese insurgency and now hosts almost close to 60,000 refugees, majority of whom are from South Sudan. The rest are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Sudan.
Some of the South Sudanese refugees during food and cash distribution exercise at Ayilo Settlement Camp in Adjumani District - Photo by Dominic Ochola

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The Refugee community at Kiryandongo Settlement in Bweyale Town Council has decried harassment by health staff at the Panyadoli Health Centre III. 

Originally established in 1990, Kiryandongo Settlement was re-opened in 2014 during the South Sudanese insurgency and now hosts almost close to 60,000 refugees, majority of whom are from South Sudan. The rest are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Sudan.

Almost all refugees in the settlement and the most seek health services from Panyadoli Health Centre, the main facility at the Refugee Settlement, where up to 85 per cent of the population are women and children. 

But a number of refugees who have sought treatment from the health facility are complaining of harassment and neglect, whenever they visit the health facility for medical attention. Esther Pooni, one of the refugees at the camp told URN that patients and some expectant refugees sometimes sleep on the floor unattended to while others are turned away without receiving care. 

Another resident of the camp, Nighty Acayo also disclosed that the inhumane treatment at the facility has forced many pregnant mothers to seek services of traditional birth attendants – TBAs, who are considered somehow polite and caring, even though they were outlawed by the government close to 10 years ago. 

Christine Lujok, another refugee at the camps told URN that health workers are often seen slapping and harassing expectant mothers and their caretakers while at the facility. 

//Cue in; “Our women are…  

Cue out…told to do so?”//    

But Dickens Omot, the In-charge of Health Centre dismissed the allegations. Omot said the facility is understaffed yet it serves over 80,000 people including refugees and the host community.   

//Cue in; “They are talking….  

Cue out…just small place”//  

He added that one of the greatest challenges facing the facility is the language barrier between the refugees and health staff as well as exhaustion on the side of staff which might be misinterpreted by refugees and impoliteness. 

//Cue in “If people are…. 

Cue out…see the rationale?”//  

Kiryandongo District Vice Chairperson Edith Aliguma Adyeri said recently they monitored the facility and confirmed congestion. However, she also denied knowledge of the alleged harassment. 

The Ministry of Health Communications Officer, Emmanuel Ainebyoona in an interview with URN revealed that government through OPM is establishing Refugee Emergency Response Desk to deal with such challenges.