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MSF Struggles to Help South Sudan Refugees in Uganda

  • Bonifacio Taban

The emergency medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says it is struggling to provide care for the overwhelming number of refugees pouring into Uganda from South Sudan.

MSF provides all of the basic medical care to refugees living in four refugee resettlement camps in Uganda's Adjumani district.

Nurse supervisor Jasper Adotus said MSF sees up to 150 patients on weekdays and 120 on weekends, and believes that many more children and adults are going without medical care because MSF does not have the resources to reach them.

"We are still working on trying to recruit many more staff to come in... We also have some challenges with our drugs. Some drugs are going out of stock because we are experiencing quite a large number of patients coming in,” he told VOA.

The number of people in need of medical care is expected to go up when the rainy season begins in earnest next month, bringing with it an increased risk of contracting water- and mosquito-borne diseases.

MSF has begun constructing health centers in the four camps in northern Uganda housing South Sudanese refugees and hopes to have them finished before the heavy rains set in.

But William Mabior Deng, the chairman of Ayilo refugee camp, said time is too tight before the rains for the refugees to pack up and move to permanent settlements where health services are better.

So they will stay where they are and just hope for the best, he said.

Number of refugees increasing

The number of South Sudanese fleeing to neighboring countries has gone up in recent weeks, according to a U.S. official who visited South Sudan earlier this week.

“The daily numbers are increasing," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Catherine Wiesner told a news conference in Juba on Tuesday.

Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan "have seen more arrivals this month than last month -- more than 1,000 per day," Wiesner said.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released last week that nearly a quarter of a million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries.

Uganda has taken in the largest number of refugees from South Sudan -- around 87,000. About 76,000 have gone to Ethiopia, 58,000 to Sudan and 28,000 to Kenya, the report says.

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