Ambassador Gedopt (right) hands a bag of food to a Congolese refugee during the Nakivale food distribution. Copyright: WFP/Lydia Wamala
In response to a WFP appeal to donors to provide emergency relief assistance for refugees, Belgium made a generous contribution in Uganda this year. Last week the Belgian ambassador visited Nakivale refugee settlement to see WFP distribute the last rations bought with the donation.
The Belgian government has donated over US$1.2 million this year for WFP to buy local food for refugees living in Uganda. The food will reach nearly 86,000 mostly Congolese, Rwandese and Somali refugees sheltered in the Southwest and West Nile regions of Uganda.
Belgium made the donation as a funding shortage forced WFP to skip a month of relief rations. During a recent trip to Nakivale, the largest refugee settlement found in Southwest Uganda, the Belgian Ambassador, Marc Gedopt, said,
"Belgium wants to show its solidatiry with Congolese people, given the strong ties between our two countries."
WFP used the money donated to buy maize produced in Uganda, some of it by smallholder farmer groups.This and other donations will ensure food stocks for WFP up to February, when it will again need contributions for refugees.
In order to ease the situation of the refugees, the Government of Uganda and the UN’s refugee agency have come up with a 'self reliance policy'. Under this policy the Government allocates land to refugees to grow their own food and build shelters, while also allowing them to work. However, the food situation for many remains precarious,
“Even though this is a very generous gesture by the Government an estimated 100,000 refugees remain unable to provide adequate amounts of food by themselves,” said Amos Mwesigye, the WFP officer overseeing refugee operations in Nakivale.
Refugee Christopher Rukundo, a 25-year-old father of two, described how, in addition to the problem of limited land, Nakivale's climate is unfavourable. “When we want rain, it does not come, when we don’t want it, it floods us. Last year we had dry weather from March to September, we therefore had a meager harvest. I happen to have a job, as an English language teacher, but very many refugees to do not have that privilege. They therefore survive on WFP assistance.”
Kai Nielson of the UN's refugee agency in Uganda says that there has been a huge difference this year,
“While unfortunately we have in the past seen food shortages in the Nakivale we are very happy that WFP has this year been able to supply sufficient quantities. This is thanks also to the generous donation by the Government of Belgium.”
Reflecting on his visit to the settlement, Marc Gedopt stated,“We work with the international community with the aim of solving crises that lead to refugee flows. The objective must therefore be that refugees, one day, can go back to their country of origin.”