Palabek is the newest refugee settlement established in Uganda in April 2017. Located in Lamwo district in the northern part of the country, the settlement hosts almost 38,000 South Sudanese refugees. Infrastructure is still being developed because the settlement is new. Refugees seem to be integrating well with the host community, as many of them are from the same ethnic group.
Gaps & Challenges
Refugees reported challenges in accessing adequate health services dues to stock outs of medication, inadequate facilities, poor referral systems due to insufficient ambulance services. Refugees also reported lack of a district referral hospital which leads to a gap in emergency response services.
Refugees highlighted challenges in the food distribution process particularly regarding the insufficient quantity provided that does not last refugees for a full month and often runs out after two weeks. Moreover, the distribution is continuously untimely and the quality of the food distributed is reportedly poor where it is often expired. Refugees are provided with whole maize rather than ground, forcing them to sell part of their food rations to afford paying for the grinding of their maize. The lack of access to land for agricultural purposes further compromises food security in the settlement.
Access to quality education is limited in and around the settlement. There are insufficient schools accessible leading to severe congestions in the classrooms and low teacher per student ratios. Moreover, parents highlighted, language barriers have affected students’ abilities to learn. Schools reported inadequate facilities further, such as libraries and laboratories, combined with a lack of school materials, deteriorating the learning environment. Additionally, the lack of vocational institutions has left the youth idle due to the limited opportunities available following primary school.
Refugees face particular difficulties in accessing a sustainable income and thus building their resilience. The lack of vocational trainings combined with the lack of access to capital has prevented refugees from starting small scale businesses. Refugees are also unable to overcome this challenge due to the lack of land accessible for agricultural purposes and the limited provision of seeds, which further limits their opportunities to earn a living.
There are insufficient potable water sources in the settlement with few boreholes leading to congestion and long waiting lines at the collection points. This has led to refugees and nationals fetching water from streams for their home consumption, which means they use potentially unsafe and unclean water. Moreover, refugees highlighted there is poor latrine coverage in the settlement particularly for persons with special needs (PSNs) who struggle to build the latrines themselves.