The current situation in Rhino Camp, Uganda

We have been involved with 10 pastors and leaders since 2017. Three (Joseph, Emanuel and Christine) went back to South Sudan and I lost contact with them. I have no information on the current position of Anthony Felix. The others are all still there: Felix, Emmanuel, Taban, Michael, Emma and Israel.

These are not mere names to us. We know them personally and we have first-hand experience of the circumstances because we lived amongst them for 3 months from November 2019 – January 2020.

The situation in Rhino Camp, Uganda reached a critical tipping point with dire consequences for the refugees.

It is clear that the UNHCR World Food Program is under pressure and the message to the refugees are clear: “You need to take care of yourselves.” The purpose of the recent verification process was aimed at not only verifying the total number of eligible refugees but to identify the number of vulnerable people – elderly, ill, orphans etc.

The verification process was completed last week. The last food rations were distributed at the end of July. The next distribution of food rations will take place next week. It was announced that the rations will be reduced to 4kg per adult per month and only those who are duly registered can collect food.

The six remaining facilitators with whom we have close relationships represent 65 people (children included) The reduced rations represent institutionalized or systemic famine for most of them. In the case of Felix Wani for example, 28kg of rice will be issued to the 7 registered people in his household of 10 people. 15kg of that must go to the school to provide one meal per day for the school going children. The remaining 13kg must be used to provide one more meal for 10 people per day.

Imagine eating a small portion of rice once a day for a whole month – nothing to add to spice it up!

The refugees we know are trying to be self-sustainable, but they have not been supported by the UNHCR in this effort:

  •  They are crop farmers, but there are not any land made available for them. They must rent land from local landowners. Once they have a crop, the rent needs to be paid.
  •  The quality of available soil to cultivate is extremely poor.
  •  The weather is very unpredictable with less rain than usual, making it difficult to raise a crop.
  •  Goat and Poultry farming has been profitable to some, but they suffer from theft and illnesses that they are not able to prevent or treat.

With the reduction in the rations by the UNHCR more of them will look for soil to cultivate. The higher demand will lead to increase in the cost of available land. This can lead to conflict between refugees and local landowners because of the pressure on available resources.

 If this happens, it will also have a negative impact on the morale of the community that are already at an extremely low level. The prevalence of domestic violence, teenage pregnancies and marriages, suicide and other social problems are only indicators of the severe strain on the refugee community.

Many have decided to return to South Sudan, with regular rumours and stories that those who did not make it to Juba have been killed on the way in skirmishes with rebel and / or government forces. It seems that the safety and security situation in rural South Sudan (Where the refugees came from) are not conducive to a return to their homeland.

At the moment the choice to stay in the camp or to return to their home land seems to be no choice at all. They are caught between a rock and a hard place, but we need a plan to get them out of this predicament.

I am helping InContext Ministries International ( to find reliable information about the current situation in South Sudan. We are contacting organizations and individuals who can provide accurate information about the socio-political and safety and security situation. They are also considering sending one or more of our contacts in the refugee camp to Juba to do a full assessment. The purpose of this is to gather reliable and accurate information that will help us asses the feasibility of repatriation of our friends to their home country.

We hope that this effort may create a real sense of hope and will open the door for them to return to their homeland soon!

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