Regan Okumu descries the impact of the influx of refugees in West Nile
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Local Government Accounts Committee Hon. Reagan Okumu has expressed worrying concerns over the influx of refugees on social service delivery in host districts.
The Local Government committee is in Arua district where it is interacting with accounting officers of districts and municipalities in the West Nile region over queries raised in the auditor general’s report for the FY 2015/16.
The analysis of the Auditor General’s report on education service delivery for example in Adjumani District revealed that enrollments in four (4) primary schools are in excess of the standard. The District management decried the influx of the refugees from South Sudan and Democratic republic of Congo on the unbearable school population. The United Nations has said that Uganda is experiencing the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, with over 1.2 million refugees and far-reaching economic and social impact. It is now Africa’s leading refugee-hosting nations, with refugees from 13 countries.
Hon Okumu and the committee members warned that the rate at which the refugees are pouring in such colossal numbers is putting considerable strain on social services that are meant to benefit the local people. In addition, the budget for the host districts like Adjumani has not been increased to match the growing demand on health services, education and water. For instance in a number of primary schools, the number of pupils were as many as 240 in a single classroom. Of these it was observed that less than 100 pupils were Ugandans.
The Adjumani District Education Officer told the committee that the capitation grant for the UPE schools also includes pupils from refugee settlements.
In his scathing remarks on Uganda’s refugee policy, Hon Okumu told the district officials that while Uganda’s generosity towards refugees is commendable, it should not be to the detriment of service delivery for the indigenous people. He added that there should be a limit to which the hospitality and generosity must extend.
“I understand that we must open our boarders to refugees, but there should be a limit to what we can do. If we are not careful these refugees will overrun some of these districts….It is very dangerous when the refugee population exceeds the indigenous population.” Hon Reagan Okumu
Hon Okumu also added that the planning and budgetary allocations for the districts do not factor in the refugees and it is not fair for Ugandans to be rationed social services on account of foreigners.
He added that unless funds are made available to budget for the excess numbers, the district should restrict crucial social services to the local population.
According the Office of the Prime Minister, Uganda has total of approximately 1,277,000 refugees, only 900,000 are registered and since 2016, there has been 739,000 new arrivals from South Sudan, at least 2000 daily.
The Accounting Officer for Adjumani Andrew Mawejje re-echoed concerns of the refugee crisis and told the committee that all refugee host districts have written a joint position paper to be presented at the Refugee Solidarity conference in Kampala on 23rd June 2017. Key among the concerns of the refugee host districts is increased funding for host districts to manage social service delivery. The Conference which will have the UN Secretary General in attendance is mainly supposed to raise urgent attention to the growing refugee crisis in the country.