Uganda’s Urban Refugees appeal for humanitarian support as COVID-19 restrictions is tightened

By Aggrey Ojok Obwoyo and Moise Mbulula Kakule

In Kampala & Wakiso

In Uganda, the vulnerable urban refugees continue face numerous challenges in the latest lockdown imposed on June 18, 2021.

“We have no garden to harvest from. This situation is worrying us because in the last lockdown (which was more than four months in 2020), we could not afford even a cup of porridge,” Salim Ngulu from Democratic Republic Congo told Refugee and Migration News early on Tuesday.

According to UNHCR, there are over 91,000 urban refugees in Uganda and most of who are living in urban areas.

A number of these urban refugees are engaged in various economic activities as a source of their livelihood.

Unfortunately, majority of these businesses have been either closed or affected by the transport restrictions imposed a week ago by President Yoweri Museveni.

Urban refugees cry for relief support.

The urban refugees are now appealing to the Ugandan government to come to their rescue with relief food items and other basic needs.

The second wave of COVID 19 is spreading like wild fire inhibiting proper conduct of businesses. With many employees loosing jobs, lives and others having to stay for long periods of time without their families, some urban refugees are becoming desperate for help.  

‘If Ugandan citizens as a host country is experiencing the adverse effects of Covid-19 pandemic, then how about us the refugees?” Ms Alima Taban a south Sudanese refugee in Kampala asked.

Ms Alima has a craft shop on Buganda road in the heart of Kampala business centre but she has not reached her shop because of the total lockdown that saw a ban on public and private transport that has been limited to essential workers.

Our Refugee and Migration Journalists, Mr Aggrey and Mr Moise visited families of urban refugees in Wakiso and Kampala where majority of urban refugees spoke with them on how refugees in urban communities managed to survive during the first wave of COVID 19 period in Uganda.

Ms Joyce Nabesa, 32, is a South Sudanese and lives in Massaja in Wakiso district.

 “It was not easy.  Before COVID-19, we used to make liquid soap, peanut butter and dry okra that were then delivered to supermarkets. However, the pandemic crushed our businesses since movements were restricted. We then ended up not selling our products and even when we took our products to the community, people had no money to buy much,” said Ms Nabesa.

The mother of five further explained that they had challenges paying rent.

“We were given eviction letters because of unpaid rent arreas. Some landlords gave time, others didn’t and as I speak now many people still have outstanding bills,” Ms Nabesa told Refugee Media and Migration News.

Just like the poor slum dwellers in Uganda, every urban refugee here is equally facing challenges.

Ms Nabesa and every other refugee in Kampala’s slums are not sure where the next meal will come from.

In the previous lockdown from March to around June 2020, government gave emergency food distributed by Office of the Prime Minister from various sources including donations and government buying from sellers. Most refugees missed out on this ration but are requesting government to consider them this time round.

According to plans by office of the Prime Minister now under Ms Robinah Nabanjja, the vulnerable who live on a hand to mouth source of livelihood will be supported with money which will be sent via their registered mobile money lines.

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