III. Executive Summary
In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) conducted a rapid multi-sectoral needs assessment in 5 refugee settlements in Uganda (Rhino Camp, Imvepi, Lobule, Kiryandongo and Kyaka II), in order to better understand refugees’ specific information needs related to Covid-19, as well as more general needs and challenges arising from the disease or the movement restrictions put in place by the Ugandan government. The information from the assessment will drive advocacy, collaboration between humanitarian actors, and programming priorities for DRC.
Between May 2-10, enumerators in five settlements conducted 573 individual interviews, of which 67% were with women. The household-level survey tool focused on the key areas of protection, livelihoods, WASH, conflict/security, and information/coordination.
Respondents were generally well-informed about Covid-19 symptoms, causes, and means of prevention, but only 43% of people were aware that the disease is contagious, which could impact people’s adherence to social distancing guidelines. Only 5% of respondents espoused rumors or incorrect information, suggesting that the spread of misinformation may not be a priority concern. However, fewer than 50% of respondents reported receiving information about what to do if they or a family member showed symptoms of Covid-19. Only 13% of people reported receiving information from posters, whereas the majority of people in all settlements reported receiving information from the radio.
An alarming 96% of refugees reported challenges accessing basic needs, largely due to the movement restrictions and long distances to access these services without a means of transportation, as well as increased prices and loss of income. Coping strategies varied by settlement, with 66% of the more established residents of Lobule reporting borrowing money to buy basic needs, whereas in Kiryandongo, 60% of refugees reported seeking help from NGOs. Respondents in all settlements except for Rhino Camp reported a loss in income, which was greater among men than women (possibly due to men’s higher rate of employment in wage labor). 13% of those who have agricultural land reported challenges accessing it, but access to seeds was a much greater concern – 35% of respondents reported challenges accessing seeds. Only 15% of respondents reported having savings prior to the Covid-19 restrictions, and only 13% of those were able to continue saving during this period. In cases where households did not have enough food to feed the entire household, a variety of coping strategies were employed, including choosing less expensive foods, reducing meal size, and consuming seed stock for next season.
While only 8% of respondents reported witnessing or hearing of conflict related to Covid-19, 40% of that conflict was categorized as domestic violence. 71% of those who heard about instances of violence believed that women were the most vulnerable to violence, which mostly arose as a result of stress and loss of income. Boys are believed to face greater risks of physical abuse, and girls, of domestic violence and sexual exploitation. Children of both genders are considered likely to face risks of child labor.
Overall, respondents reported an increase in water usage during the Covid-19 period, but still reported challenges with long queues for water and long distances to water sources limiting water use. Soap availability was reported as particularly low in Rhino Camp at the time of data collection.
Some types of information about Covid-19 seem well-known (symptoms, causes), whereas refugees could benefit from more targeted education on others (prevention, how and where to seek care). Similarly, some modes of information dissemination (radio and community drives) seem to make more of an impact than others (posters), and should be prioritized accordingly.
Challenges accessing basic services could be met with transport facilitation or direct distributions closer to beneficiaries’ homes. Loss of income and food security are major concerns, especially as more-established refugees report selling assets and consuming seed stock in order to feed their families and access basic needs. Humanitarian actors should prioritize livelihoods protection interventions to prevent the necessity of these types of coping strategies. The high level of dependence of residents in some settlements (particularly Rhino Camp and Imvepi) on humanitarian aid to meet their household food requirements is a serious cause for concern, and humanitarian actors should be prioritizing continuity of those programs that contribute to food security.
Reports of decreased feelings of safety are a cause for concern, as is the apparent perceived increase in domestic violence, which can direct future protection interventions towards community-based protection systems and case management.
In terms of WASH, humanitarian actors should ensure soap distribution is sufficient to meet SPHERE standards, and invest in decongestion of water sources (both to avoid Covid-19 transmission and to reduce queueing time) which limit households’ use of water.