Uganda defies COVID-19, opens border to refugees

DRC refugees receive warm reception in Uganda

from HASSAN ONYANGO in Kampala, Uganda
KAMPALA, (CAJ News) WHILE countries globally have closed borders to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), Uganda has opened its border to thousands of refugees fleeing escalating violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This has enhanced Uganda’s reputation as the world’s friendliest country to refugees.

Approximately 45 000 Congolese have fled towards Uganda since deadly militia attacks in May.

Some 1 500 refugees entered the East African country on Wednesday.

Most are women and children that are in a frail state hiding in the bush for the past several weeks without sufficient access to food, clean drinking water and shelter.

Uganda implemented restrictions on border travel in March to contain the spread of COVID-19.

However, President Yoweri Museveni has directed the government to temporarily re-open the Zombo border with DRC to allow life-saving aid and protection to refugees.

“My gratitude goes to the Ugandan government and local communities for this great show of solidarity with people fleeing conflict,” said Joel Boutroue, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Uganda.

All new arrivals undergo security and health screening at the border.

They are initially quarantined at a farming institute that can currently accommodate some 6000 people.

They will be transported to existing refugee settlements after the mandatory 14 days.

Uganda’s goodwill comes despite its refugee response facing under-funding.

It needs US$28 million (R4,7 billion) for the response.

Uganda has 893 COVID-19 cases, including 52 refugees. Some 840 have recovered. No deaths have been recorded.

– CAJ News

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