Refugee Population Drops By 10,000 in Kiryandongo Settlement

The population of refugees at Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Kiryandongo District has dropped by 10,000 in a space of four years, officials in the office of the Prime Minister have revealed. This follows a joint verification and profiling exercise conducted by OPM and the humanitarian aid agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR.

The refugee settlement hosted some 75,857 refugees, the majority of whom were from war-torn South Sudan, according to the verification conducted four years ago. Emmanuel Turyagenda, the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement Commandant however told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the recent verification exercise shows the population had dropped to 65,722 refugees. 

Turyagenda notes that the decline in the refugee population is attributed to a number of factors among them the spontaneous departure of some refugees returning to their homes in South Sudan, and the failure of several to turn up for the exercise.

He says while the verification exercise has ended, OPM will continue with the exercise of adding babies to the data of the parents whose details were captured recently. Turyagenda says that the verification exercise is meant to validate and update the bio-data of refugees and asylum seekers settled in the country.

According to him, the exercise will also further help the refugees and asylum seekers to get new identification documents for accessing social services in the respective settlements they are residing. 

Some of the refugees however say the deplorable conditions in the settlement have prompted many to leave for other areas or return to their homes. Mary Ajonye, a South Sudan refugee says many of their colleagues are returning back home because they are unable to find work while others can’t afford to pay for their children’s education.

She also notes that the food and cash ration offered by World Food Programme (WFP) and OPM can’t sustain families within the settlement who don’t own land to supplement their food. WFP cut down food and cash ration to refugees in the country in 2020 owing to a shortfall in funding. 

For instance, a refugee in Kiryandongo Settlement currently receives only 21,000 shillings down from the 31,000 shillings they previously received. Uganda last conducted verification of asylum seekers and refugees in 2018.

The country currently hosts 1.5 million refugees across 13 refugee settlements in Adjumani1, Bidibidi, Imvepi, Kiryandongo, Kyaka II, Kyangwali, Lobule, Nakivale, Oruchinga, Palabek, Palorinya, Rhino Camp and Rwamwanja.

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