Rhino Camp, originally opened in 1980, expanded in the wake of the South Sudanese civil war to host the sudden influx of refugees into northern Uganda. The settlement currently hosts more than 116,000 refugees, mostly South Sudanese, and continues to receive new arrivals. In August 2017, the settlement was expanded with the establishment of the Omugo zone extension area.
Gaps & Challenges
Some areas of farming land provided to refugees are infertile and cannot support subsistence agricultural activities, impeding access to food and livelihoods. Refugees are struggling to harvest a sizable yield, and cannot afford to buy fertilizer. To cope, families often borrow or beg for food, as well as sell important non-food items (NFIs) to supplement monthly food distribution shortages.
Overcrowded classrooms and few teachers impede students’ learning in primary and secondary schools. Many South Sudanese children do not speak local Ugandan languages, so the introduction of a new curriculum in Lugbara has prevented students from understanding. Girls are a particularly vulnerable group, as many drop out of school.
Refugees often have to walk long distances to reach health facilities, which puts people with disabilities at a greater disadvantage to accessing health care. For those that are able to access the health centres, they report that services are hindered by limited staffing, inadequate medicines, and a lack of emergency medical support.
Although most refugees received shelter NFIs upon arrival in the settlement, the materials are now worn out. Tarpaulins, in particular, leak during the rainy season and need to be replaced. Household NFIs such as saucepans, jerry cans, blankets, mattresses, and mosquito nets have similarly deteriorated in condition.
Few water sources and difficult to pump boreholes contribute to long waiting times for refugees to access water. Poor quality ground water means expensive piped water networks have to be constructed; with the settlement dependent on water provisioning through trucking as construction is ongoing. Additionally, the quality of water from the tanks is poor, with reports of occasional contamination. Refugees also noted that some latrines have been destroyed by heavy rain and people resort to using the bathroom in the bushes.
Environmental degradation is increasing and there is a great need for alternative cooking methods like energy saving stoves or briquettes. Protection issues often arise when women collect firewood and are reportedly harassed and attacked by host community members. Tree planting may help reverse some of the damage to the environment.
Strengths & Opportunities
Humanitarian partners have strong relationships with UNHCR, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), local government, and police, which enhances their ability to coordinate closely and cooperate to address the needs of refugees.
The host community has welcomed refugees, and worked with OPM to donate or rent land for residential and farming areas of the settlement. The recent addition of Omugo zone illustrates cooperation between the host community and humanitarian actors.