Thousands of refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan have begun to benefit from a major aid operation following the arrival of a Boeing 747 aircraft in Entebbe on Sunday morning carrying more than 100 tonnes of emergency relief items according to UNHCR.
The shipment contained thousands of mosquito nets, sleeping mats, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets and solar lights, which are set to be delivered to refugee settlement areas in Adjumani, Arua and Kiryandongo districts, as well as to those residing in the newly opened Bidibidi settlement in Yumbe.
The cargo jet was provided to UNHCR by Dubai Royal Wings, thanks to the generosity of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Dubai, who agreed to partner on the shipment after hearing of the untold suffering being faced by the South Sudanese people since the outbreak of violence in Juba on July 8.
The delivery comes just days after the number of South Sudanese people who have been forced to seek safety in neighbouring countries passed the one million mark, including more than 185,000 people in the last ten weeks alone.
“The people of South Sudan are suffering, as we’ve seen by the record numbers that have fled to Uganda and other neighbouring countries in recent weeks,” said UNHCR’s acting Representative to Uganda, Bornwell Kantande.
“We’re extremely grateful to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for his ongoing support to UNHCR and for making it possible for us to ensure this much-needed aid gets delivered to thousands of the recent arrivals. This shipment will go a long way towards ensuring these people are living in a safe and dignified environment.”
Those arriving in Uganda are disproportionately young and female, with around 90 per cent of new arrivals being women or children under the age of 18. This presents the humanitarian response with distinct challenges, particularly in the prevention and treatment of sexual and gender-based violence, and child protection.
The solar lights will help in UNHCR’s endeavors to provide each family with light, enhancing security and ensuring children are able to study after dark, as many areas where refugees are settled lack electricity. Malaria nets will provide crucial protection against the disease, given that many of the settlements are located in high-prevalence areas. Malaria is the number one reason why people are seeking assistance from health professionals in refugee-hosting locations. Kitchen sets will play a key role in helping to ensure that refugees are able to eat a healthy diet, something of critical importance with many refugees having fled from areas in South Sudan where food is difficult to get hold of or is prohibitively expensive.
The large number of refugees fleeing to Uganda in a relatively short amount of time has placed great strain on the resources available to the humanitarian response. Stocks of key relief items begin to dwindle almost as soon as they arrive, as thousands continue to flee to Uganda on a daily basis. The situation looks only set to get worse, with current expectations predicting that 110,000 more South Sudanese could flee to Uganda before the end of the year.
Severe and chronic underfunding threatens to undermine the effectiveness of the humanitarian response to South Sudanese refugees to deliver even the most basic services. UNHCR and partners have so far received just 20 per cent of the US$701 million needed to provide adequate assistance to South Sudanese refugees in 2016.