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Poor in West Nile get cash relief

Sweden gives Shs 14.8bn to vulnerable pregnant mothers impacted by COVID-19 

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Up to 56,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under the age of two, including refugees living in the West Nile region are set to receive emergency money in the coming weeks, thanks to funding from the Swedish government.

The UN’s World Food Programme will be distributing the cash through mobile bank vans to individuals identified as the most vulnerable by their communities in the refugee-hosting districts of Adjumani, Arua, Madi Okollo, Koboko, Moyo, Obongi, Terego and Yumbe.

Speaking at the WFP offices in Kampala on Oct. 06, Ola Hällgren; the head of Development Cooperation at the Swedish embassy in Kampala said his government had already committed US$25 million (Shs92.5billion) to support Uganda’s efforts to improve community and household resilience among refugees and host populations in West Nile when COVID-19 came.

“The close partnership with WFP allowed us to quickly adapt our support at a time of crisis, re-allocating US$ 4 million (Shs14.8billion) to the emergency transfer,” he said.

“Through this support and other interventions, Sweden remains committed to contributing to Uganda’s efforts to address the negative impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities,” Hällgren said.

The money is expected to stabilise women’s and children’s feeding following disruptions in their access to nutritious food during the COVID-19 lockdown, which coincided with WFP food ration cuts to all refugees living in 13 settlements in Uganda.

When the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in March, the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, including closure of its borders to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions on movement and economic activity affected the WFP’s activities in the country as farms and businesses shut down during the lockdown.

This affected 1.4 million refugees who live in Uganda and are extremely reliant on food rations for basic survival.

Brechtje van Lith, the Save the Children Country Director in Uganda said at the time that the food ration cuts, which were caused by lack of funding, came at the worst possible time, as hundreds of thousands of refugee children are already being pushed further into extreme poverty and hunger by COVID-19.

An integrated food security phase classification (IPC) analysis for June to December 2020 recommended strengthened social protection as one of the means by which refugees and host communities can be assisted to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, ration cuts and other challenges such as flooding and post-harvest food losses.

“That is exactly what we are doing,” said El-Khidir Daloum, the WFP Country Director for Uganda, “We are using the most optimal means of assistance – cash – to cushion women and children threatened by malnutrition.”

Daloum said that WFP is extremely grateful for Sweden’s support, which will enable it to assist the most vulnerable people during the global pandemic.

WFP will direct the cash to 43,300 women and children who are benefitting from its Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) initiative in addition to another 13,200 people assisted through the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) and the Third Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF3) public works programmes. DRDIP and NUSAF III are government projects implemented under the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

Dr. Robert Limlim, the Director, DRDIP/NUSAF in the Office of the Prime Minister said that the government has an important role in mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable individuals in Uganda.

“To be able to cover the most vulnerable households in a short time frame, cash transfers call for rigorous coordination between governments and humanitarian partners. That is where we come in, leveraging our experience working with Uganda’s refugee-hosting districts and settlements,” he said.


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