Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has urged the international community to allocate more resources to South Sudan refugees.
Grandi said the UN appeal for more funding for South Sudan refugees is yet to attract enough funding.
“It is unacceptable that the [UN] appeal for more support to help South Sudan refugees has not attracted the required funding. South Sudan refugees should receive the same support and attention just like refugees from Syria and Yemen,” he said at the end of his two-day visit to Uganda, which hosts tens of thousands of South Sudan refugees.
While in Uganda, Grandi visited Nyumanzi transit centre, which currently has more than 7,000 refugees, and Pagarinya settlement camp, which hosts more than 22,000, in Adjumani district. Majority of the refugees are women and children.
From Uganda, Grandi flew to Juba, South Sudan, to visit internally-displaced people. UNHCR has so far received $122 million, representing 20 percent of the $608.8 million needed for South Sudan refugees in neighbouring countries, including Uganda.
Speaking at a press briefing he addressed jointly with Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda at the OPM offices on Tuesday, Grandi said he will use his visit to Uganda and South Sudan to highlight the plight of the refugees to attract more resources.
“I’m appealing to our donors for more support for South Sudan refugees. Refugees are an international responsibility; it has to be shared by the host country and the international community,” he said.
“Humanity is suffering; please international community, respond to the South Sudan emergency situation, the same way you respond to the refugee crisis in Europe; there we are funded at 60-70 percent [of the needs], here at 20-30 percent; this is not right,” he said.
The renewed violence that broke out in South Sudan in July this year has seen 90,000 refugees fleeing to northern Uganda. There are now over 930,000 refugees in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Dr Rugunda said Uganda should not be left to shoulder the refugee problem alone.
“We shall continue welcoming refugees and treating them as humanely as possible because they are running away from distress. Our policy is that we share with them what we have, then ask the international community to supplement our efforts. We shall settle them down, give them land so that they can grow their food and sustain themselves,” he said.
The UNHCR chief expressed concern for what he described as ‘overcrowded camps’ in Adjumani and commended Uganda’s generous and forward-looking refugee policy. “Uganda’s generous and forward looking refugee policy should be emulated by other countries,” he appealed.
Hillary Onek, the minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, said government will de-congest the refugee camp in Adjumani by relocating some refugees to Yumbe district.
Grandi said government was making the right choice in relocating the refugees. He thanked Uganda for hosting refugees and treating them as humanely as possible. Uganda is the eighth largest refugee-hosting country in the world. Many refugees come from conflict-stricken neighbors; Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Burundi, among others.
“The international community should double its effort to stabilize South Sudan – the main cause of this refugee crisis,” Grandi said. He added that Uganda as a host country should not treat refugees as a burden but, rather, an asset.
He said refugees, once equipped, can contribute to the country’s development.