Joint Urgent Response on COVID-19 Paper by Refugee led Organizations
We the below Refugee Led Organizations in Westnile Uganda stand in solidarity with refugees and are fully mobilized to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and lessen the impact on the most vulnerable Refugees across Westnile Region in Arua, Yumbe, Kiryandongo and Adjumani
According to Dr. Yonas Tegegn a representative of World Health organization Uganda in a publication by Daily Monitor Uganda on March 15th 2020, “the disease is coming but we can prevent it if we are ready for it. It is not Ministry of Health, it is not WHO [that will prevent it],” he said.
There are above 1,347,360 Refugees in Uganda and South Sudanese Refugees accounts for more than 848,203 who are settled in Rhino Camp, Bidibidi, Bweyale, Imvepi, Adjumani, Lobule, Palorinya, Palabek and Kampala with huge number of refugees congested in each settlement which is risky in an event that the virus strikes the refugee settlement. There are women, elderly, disabled, stateless, undocumented, children - are living in cramped refugee and displacement sites with desperately poor hygiene and sanitation facilities.
All these settlements do not have well equipped medical facilities and professional doctors to contain a pandemic disease. District Hospitals are distant and congested that may not be of help in the case of widespread situations.
Refugees are cut off from the rest of the world and do not have access to television or internet to access the information going around.
Refugees in these settlements do not have access to clean water, sanitizer and soap for washing hands. There are no spaces for social distancing of refugees as the refugee settlement is so congested
Although the virus has not been detected in the Settlement yet, from our observation in the settlements across Westnile, we have not seen enough ongoing preparation towards containing the spread of COVID-19 among the refugees and hence we are concerned by this delay to create massive awareness for the refugee and the provision of testing kits, preventive kits, doctors and temporarily medical facilities to help contain the situation
The future of tens of thousands of refugees in Uganda is becoming more uncertain as countries have taken increasingly stringent containment measures and yet there are no measures on ground.
This is not the time to turn our backs on people living in less fortunate situations than ourselves. We must support those in need during these extraordinarily challenging times.
We are following the COVID-19 situation closely, and taking precautionary measures to push for prioritizing the health and well-being of all. We must keep our humanity alive and show solidarity with refugees and displaced people during this time of widespread uncertainty. It is time to show them that we are not leaving them behind and alone.
Therefore, we are calling on the OPM and UNHCR to immediately consider the followings
• Train some refugee youth on the pandemic to start door to door awareness on preventive measures in the refugee settlement immediately before the virus enters the settlement
• To put in place a checking point for all who enter the refugee settlement
• Provide enough protection kits to the refugees
• Provide enough soap or sanitizer to vulnerable refugee people
• To setup a temporary social distancing facilities for those who may be infect in every settlements.
• In the case of death, we request for the establishment of a place where refugees can be buried for future reference rather than the State burial announced by President Museveni as this may lead to refugees buried in unknown location
• Put in place a resilience plan before, during and after the pandemic so that there are no gaps in restoration and reintegration of refugees affected.
We reiterate our commitment to stand in solidarity with the refugees and ready to join hand with all the International organizations for any intervention program
I CAN South Sudan, YSAT, CECI, CAFOT, APINO and D4PR