New risk of waterborne diseases in refugee camps in Uganda

by Plan UK | Plan UK
Monday, 17 March 2014 17:15 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Waterborne diseases could pose a new threat to South Sudanese refugees in Uganda as the rainy season approaches, according to children’s charity Plan International.

Camps housing thousands of people stand on low-lying ground and could be prone to flooding during the wet season next month.

There are concerns that the combination of rain and lack of sanitation could result in diarrhoea and diseases.

“The settlements are in low-lying areas, more like a flood plain,” says Davies Okoko, Emergency Programme Manager for Plan International in Uganda.

“So when it rains, there is a high chance of flooding in the camp, and refugees may have to evacuate and go to higher ground.

“Whenever there is lots of rain and no sanitation facilities, there is a high chance of an outbreak of waterborne diseases.

“I’m not really looking at the worst case scenario of cholera, but there may be diarrhoea and diseases.”

There are now nearly 80,000 refugees in Uganda, according to latest UN reports. All have fled the conflict in South Sudan and experts predict that their return to the country will be slow and difficult.

According to latest UN reports, more than 700,000 people have been displaced by violence within South Sudan since the start of the crisis.
Thousands more have fled into neighbouring countries Ethiopia (69,456), Sudan (42,011) and Kenya (25,099).

“Longer term plans for the refugees are needed,” says Mr Okoko. “Some of them may be here for one year, two years minimum.

“The refugees’ needs are enormous – many have left South Sudan without anything so they are beginning from the bare minimum.

“The refugee children’s major need is education – they have to start attending school because the term has already started. But the schools here cannot absorb the whole influx of children,” he adds.

Plan is focusing on installing child-friendly spaces at both Baratuku and Nyumanzi camps, where children can play and meet up.

The charity is also providing water and sanitation aid, distributing soap, jerry cans, collapsible water tanks and kitchen sets. Plan has helped various families install household 'tippy taps' to improve their levels of sanitation and hygiene.

For more information on Plan’s work or to make a donation call 0800 526 848 or visit