Uganda: Support for Refugees, Disaster Preparedness and Response Situation Report No. 2

With a new Secretary General now officially confirmed as well as other senior officers, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) is in a position to face the challenges that lie ahead. The rationalisation of the refugee operation in Mbarara and the restructuring recently implemented by the URCS, with Federation support will advance the development process while ensuring that the refugees continue to receive quality assistance.
appeal no. 01.13/99
period covered: January - September 1999

The context

The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS), with support from the International Federation, has been managing a multi-sectoral programme for refugees in South Western Uganda since 1994. The refugees, most of whom originate from the Congo and Rwanda are living in two camps about 30 kms from Mbarara Town. Presently, Orukinga houses approximately 6,587 refugees primarily originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, whereas Nakivale camp includes 5,154 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as from the Congo and Rwanda. The programme is managed under a tripartite agreement between the Uganda Government, Uganda Red Cross/Federation
and UNHCR (who are lead agency and co-finance the programme). WFP is responsible for providing food to the refugees, and contribute towards food distribution costs from the Extended Delivery Points (EDPs). No other organisations are present in the two camps, hence the National Society (with Federation support) is responsible for the provision of all services required by the refugees, including food and non-food distribution, water and sanitation, health, education and community services, as well as logistics support and camp management.

Nakivale camp has been designated by Uganda Government as a reception camp for any major influx of refugees into the country, and the URCS and Federation were requested to manage any new influx into Uganda. A contingency plan for different influx scenarios has been updated and agreed upon between the Government, WFP, UNHCR and the URCS.

With a new Secretary General now officially confirmed as well as other senior officers, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) is in a position to face the challenges that lie ahead. The rationalisation of the refugee operation in Mbarara
and the restructuring recently implemented by the URCS, with Federation support will advance the development process while ensuring that the refugees continue to receive quality assistance.

Community Services

Significant changes currently taking place in this sector shall continue through to the year 2000. Beneficiaries are being encouraged to initiate their own income generating projects that can be self-funded through rural savings and revolving credit schemes. Greater efforts are being made to link vocational training to income generation through business skills training and education about savings and credit schemes. Some 222 refugees benefited from income generating activities during the reporting period and a similar number of refugees with special needs were assisted with different types of intervention under the community services project. Details of these are available from regular monthly reports.


The health services provided to the two camps, include both refugees and nationals, as Ugandans from the surrounding villages continue to visit the two centres. Malaria, Acute Respiratory Infections and worms continue to be the main causes of morbidity. It is highly recommended that a Malaria Control Program should be developed. Activities under this project will include among others, an entomological study of vector breeding sites and control and identifying community acceptance of impregnated bed net use and pesticide sprays. There were no major outbreaks of diseases in the past nine months.

Discussions with District Health Units regarding their commitment to support development of cost sharing guidelines and staffing needs have been intensified in collaboration with UNHCR.

In close consultation with UNHCR the programme now procures supplementary drugs from GTZ, who have been tasked to streamline the supplementary drugs procurement for all refugee camps in Uganda.

The Ministry of Health continued to provide free health kits, under their essential drugs programme.


Both nationals and refugees continue to benefit from the education programme both as pupils and teachers. The Federation and URCS support extends to both the curricular and extra curricular activities. Students receive school materials and uniforms, teachers training and salaries. Small adult education programme and adult literacy classes continue to be offered in the two camps.

Water & Sanitation

According to the recent inter-agency evaluation report, water availability is 17 litres per person per day whereas latrine coverage is 52% (7 persons per latrine on the average). A hydrological survey report is awaited to ascertain viable sites for sinking boreholes. It is virtually impossible to give a cumulative figure for beneficiaries in this sector, as nationals have access to the water points, but would not use them on a consistent basis. In Orukinga, an estimated 8,000 beneficiaries draw water from the project each month, with about 6,000 in Nakivale.

Programme Management

As the Federation expatriate presence in Mbarara completely phased out during the reporting period, the URCS managed all the sectors of the programme with significantly reduced Federation input. The inter-agency review exercise carried out in July this year provided fresh impetus with regard to the overall management of the operation. The aim of the review was to evaluate the key sectors and the overall management of the camps and introduce the concept of self-reliance strategy. This period saw the re-organisation of the operation in programme and personnel management sectors. Presently there are 51 URCS staff employed by the project in all sectors, together with 123 refugees. With the reduced staffing levels, it is envisaged that salaries will be paid out of the UNHCR budget, and staff will be compensated with greater job security by being given twelve month contracts in the year 2000.

Joint planning and budgeting exercise for the year 2000 has been completed, with priorities of the operation defined and agreed upon. The Delegation continued to manage the finances of the operation as well as the logistics.

Disaster Preparedness Programme

A revised plan of action has been produced and the focus is mainly on first-aid training, public awareness campaigns on general hygiene, control and eradication of epidemics and provision of first aid kits to high risk branches. The contingency plan for a refugee influx into the southwest was updated and submitted to URCS partners. The Kisoro and Kabale branches received both technical and material support for better preparedness. A small reception centre for arriving refugees was established in Kisoro and the branch was provided with transport and communications equipment .
The URCS Mbale branch with headquarters support provided emergency assistance to some 300 persons affected by mudslides and flooding in Eastern Uganda. The URCS, with Federation support, launched a local appeal to assist the landslide victims as the government sought alternative sites for relocating the affected families. The National Society remains an active partner in the disaster preparedness and response mechanism for urban disasters.

Institutional Development

The Secretary General, Fund-raising Co-ordinator, Senior Accountant and Capacity Building Co-ordinator were confirmed in their positions by the Governing Body. The Federation delegation in Kampala, with technical support from Geneva and Nairobi, continued to provide support to the restructuring process of the society, and its Institutional Development.

During the period under review, Danish Red Cross and Federation Secretariat consultants carried out a review of the National Society Health programme. The aim of the review exercise was to prioritise interventions in the health programme as well as identifying potential risks and weakness of the programme. A report of the review is awaited and it is hoped that the findings will explore ways of implementing health activities in a more cost-effective manner. The National Society's computerised accounting system as well as the vehicle pool system introduced during the reporting period is working well.

The Society was represented in the Regional BTC Training in Nairobi by their Disaster Preparedness Officer and Relief Health Co-ordinator. Both performed comparatively well and it is envisioned that they might be called upon for delegate placement in the event that suitable opportunities arise within the region.

Outstanding needs

Given that assistance to refugees from the Great Lakes Region no longer appears to be a priority of major donors, the response to this Appeal has been reasonable. The Delegation has taken measures to significantly reduce costs, but there remain areas in this Appeal that have not been covered so far. In the Disaster Preparedness component of the Appeal, the purchase and pre-positioning of contingency stocks has been defrayed, as well as the phasing out of the expatriate presence in Mbarara and reduced running costs of the delegation in Kampala. Donors are urged to continue to support the programme, in particular the Disaster Preparedness component, as the situation in the region is volatile and in spite of ongoing efforts to secure peace, an influx of refugees into Uganda from surrounding countries cannot be

External relations - Government/UN/NGOs/Media

Both the URCS and the Delegation have been working closely with the various partners and relevant line ministries. Co-operation with the Office for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Health Ministry has been particularly close. The delegation has had an impact in the Disaster Preparedness Policy currently before the Cabinet, as well as the forthcoming DPP legislation. It is anticipated that the role of the society will be clearly specified in the two documents. The Society also signed an MoU with the Ministry of Health earlier this year.

The delegation enjoys full diplomatic status in Uganda and in that capacity we are invited to all major co-ordinating meetings. Together with the ICRC, the Federation participates in the UN disaster management team, attending monthly meetings of donor agencies chaired by the World Bank, and meetings co-ordinated by UNHCR on refugee matters. Co-operation with partners in the refugee programme (UNHCR and WFP) have remained excellent.


see Annex for details

Bekele Geleta
Africa Department

Peter Rees-Gildea
Operations Funding and Reporting Department