Red Cross calls for immediate support to meet needs of growing South Sudanese refugee population in Uganda

Published: 29 August 2016

Nairobi/Geneva 29 August 2016As thousands of South Sudanese continue to flee their conflict-ridden country, and with projections for that influx to continue over the remainder of the year, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for immediate support to ensure these families receive the life-saving assistance they need.

“The vast majority of people who are crossing into Uganda from South Sudan are women and children, or people with special needs, such as the elderly and those with complex health issues,” said Andreas Sandin, operations coordinator, IFRC, eastern Africa. “After having travelled more than 400 kilometres from Juba, they arrive exhausted, hungry, and in need of shelter. With more families arriving daily, we need to ramp up our activities quickly.”

The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 659,000 Swiss francs to support the Uganda Red Cross Society in assisting 40,000 refugees from South Sudan over the next six months. Interventions will focus on water, sanitation, hygiene promotion, emergency shelter and health.

Since early July, when deadly violence erupted in South Sudan’s capital between groups loyal to the President and those loyal to the Vice-President, more than 80,000 people have fled to neighbouring Uganda. Approximately 20,000 people have moved into the recently opened Bidibidi camp in Yumbe District in northern Uganda. That figure is expected to double by December 2016.

“Existing water and sanitation facilities are not able to meet the needs of this refugee population as they currently exist,” added Sandin. “Looking at the projections for the further influx of people, we know the pressure on infrastructure is only going to increase. We have a responsibility to assist these people now, and an opportunity to be prepared for further arrivals over the coming months.”

Only 10 litres of water are available per person per day in the camp, far below accepted standards. Access to proper sanitation facilities is also poor with one communal latrine currently serving 125 refugees. “Open defecation is a common practice in the refugee settlement, particularly close to water sources, which people are also using for their personal needs,” said Dr Adinoyi Adeiza, IFRC health coordinator, Africa region. “It would not take much for a cholera outbreak to run rampant through the camp or extend into host communities.” To raise awareness about proper hygiene, the Uganda Red Cross Society has already mobilized teams of volunteers to visit families in Bidibidi. Teams are also assisting in the registration of new arrivals.

“Through no fault of their own, these families find themselves in extremely challenging circumstances, uprooted, in a foreign country, in unfamiliar surroundings,” said Sandin.  “We need to remember that beyond the label of refugees, these are people who need our support, and they need it now.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 190 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit You can also connect with us on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Flickr.

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