Food rations distribution has delayed. Yet we have nothing left to eat, refugees say.

A teenage girl drinks water, at a central water point, in Rhino camp. Picture by Ochan Hannington | 28 Nov 2017

Author: Ojok Michael

World Food Programme (WFP) is concerned about rowdy situation in Rhino camp of South Sudanese people a result of late food rations distribution for refugees. The organisation agrees the food handouts are overdue. They blame the delays on Uganda government, through its Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) that deals with refugee matters.

The agency’s spokes person, Clare Naville, confirms they have sufficient food in their stores. But WFP cannot dispatch it until the OPM has allowed them to do so.

“We have plenty of food rations ready for distribution for the refugees, and just waiting for the green light from the government of Uganda through the OPM so we can release the food for distribution,” Clare said. “The delay is within the OPM who first want to get (correct) data of the refugees before distribution of food kicks off.”

Refugees hardly have enough food, they say. Everyday that passes brings anxiety. Refugees’ anger is rising. Staff of various organisations operating in the camp fear further protests could occur.

The Refugee Desk Officer representing the OPM, in Arua district, Solomon Osakana, attributes the delays to new procedures his office wants to put in place. He says those new procedural requirements need to be fulfilled, first.

In order to ensure the process, of acquiring the correct data, is quick the officer says they are working hard to achieve refugees’ support.

“We have embarked on sensitising the refugees on the changes in procedures of distributing food, in line with international standards,” he says.

The procedure requires refugees to be verified, first. Recently the OPM-UNHCR ongoing verification exercise was launched for this purpose. On the related story follow the link: The partners argue they want to establish actual number of refugees, in Uganda, following allegations of mismanagements of the statistics.

Upon the instructions from the office of the President of Uganda, H.E Yoweri K. Museveni, an inquiry into the alleged malpractice in the OPM was launched. No officer has been implicated in the scandal, yet.

As of May 18, the OPM-UNHCR Verification Exercise updates indicate the data of close to 300,000 (that is around 19 per cent) of the estimated target of 1.4 million registered refugees has been verified.

But verification progress has impacted heavily in the services delivery, in the settlement camps. Refugees are increasingly becoming impatient. The distribution of food is 14 days behind the schedule, according to Simon Waran, who is the Secretary of the Refugee Welfare Committee. Simon represents his fellow refugees on the Committee.

He believes the demonstration was the best way to communicate their grievances. “We have not got any positive information from the World Food Program about why the (food rations) distribution has delayed. Yet we have nothing left to eat. So we had to protest to show our anger against the delay,” he said.

The protest did not last very long. The police quickly quelled it, just within hours. During the scuffles, some offices were vandalized – and property was stolen. Yesterday the police confirmed they have recovered most of the stolen property. Suspects are still in police custody. Another related story, here:

Most of the refugees totally rely on food handouts. More protests may happen, if the food rations for refugees continue to lay untouched in WFP stores across the country.