The refugee population in Uganda has increased rapidly due to the influx of South Sudanese fleeing violence, scarcity of food, and financial instability in their country. The UNHCR reported 12,889 new arrivals from South Sudan in one week (January 18–24, 2017), and Goboro border continues to receive more than 1,000 refugees daily. Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, opened in early August 2016 and still being built from the ground up, is now filled to capacity and has been closed to new arrivals.
We conducted deliveries in the health facilities, with no maternal deaths registered. Between December and January, we have delivered an estimated 213 babies in Zone 1 and Zone 4. The number of women who give birth in the community without going to a health center has been reduced tremendously.
A program for preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV has been adopted. We currently have 12 mothers enrolled in the program.
Early diagnosis for infants under 18 months born to HIV-positive mothers has also been started. Currently, we have 35 babies being monitored.
RMF has been able to ensure a continuous stock of medical, laboratory, and cleaning supplies to ensure people of concern receive proper treatment.
Sufficient hospital equipment has been purchased. Now patients can be accommodated on hospital beds, mothers can deliver on delivery beds instead of the ground, and health facilities are kept clean because of the timely provision of cleaning materials.
RMF has been able to purchase a variety testing kits for different illnesses. Thus, the number of medical tests conducted at the health facilities have increased. For instance; in addition to malaria, the health centers are testing hepatitis B, cervical cancer, HIV, HCG, etc.
We have managed to identify clients who were previously on ART and enrolled them for continuity. A total of 351 people living with HIV/AIDS are currently being served, of which 275 are refugees.
We have continued to conduct HIV testing and counseling (HTC) services both at the health facilities and the community level. Between December 2016 and January 2017, we have tested 1,702 individuals for HIV.
As part of preventing HIV transmission, RMF has been involved in condom distribution. A total of 28,800 condoms were distributed between December 2016 and January 2017.
We have been able to open a medical screening point at the Goboro border (a point at which refugees from South Sudan are entering Uganda), where we are able to vaccinate all children under 5, provide first aid when required, and refer the critically ill to health facilities.
The bond of collaboration between RMF and Yumbe Hospital has been strengthened by the fact that RMF has offered a medical officer to support the hospital, especially with cases requiring surgery. This has helped RMF win the hearts of Yumbe District’s local government. This has a direct bearing on promoting the peaceful coexistence refugees and the host community.
RMF has been able to rent a field office in the town of Yumbe so that the administrative team can work in a permanent building, as opposed to the initial days where they worked in the shade of trees.
Since 2009, RMF has been working to help the people of South Sudan recover from decades of civil war, which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure and healthcare system. RMF initiated, co-founded, and continues to support the Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery, supports the Juba Teaching Hospital, and in December 2014, became the UNICEF implementing partner for malnutrition treatment and prevention in Jonglei State and the greater Pibor Administrative Area. Even after renewed fighting broke out in July 2016, RMF’s in-country teams have continued these programs. RMF has also been providing health services, school support for children, and vocational training to South Sudanese refugees in Uganda’s Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement since 2008, and was appointed UNHCR Health Implementing Partner in 2014.
To accommodate the large numbers of South Sudanese refugees fleeing to Uganda (between July 1, 2016 and September 21, 2016, there were 163,540 new arrivals), the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the UNHCR, in partnership with RMF and other organizations, opened the new Bidibidi Refugee Settlement on August 5, 2016. Bidibidi is located near the South Sudanese border in the Yumbe district of West Nile, Uganda, and has the capacity to support 180,000 refugees. Bidibidi is being built from the ground up, and during August 2016, 31,902 refugees were relocated to the settlement. Real Medicine Foundation is the main UNHCR Health Implementing Partner for Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, and between August 5, 2016 and August 31, 2016, 5,331 patients were treated at RMF’s health clinic.
Current statistics indicate that there are 272,206 refugees and asylum seekers now living in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, and including residents of its catchment areas, the project targets over 330,000 people.