TORORO, Uganda, July 13 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Uganda on Friday said its stores are quickly drying up as a result of reduced funding amid an influx of refugees arriving in the East African country.
El-Khidir Daloum, WFP Country Director, told Xinhua that the food in the pipeline can only last up to August if the urgent funding needed does to come through.
Daloum said the agency needs up to 53 million U.S. dollars to feed over 1.4 million refugees in the country for the next six months.
"Refugees heavily rely on WFP for food assistance in their first years in Uganda, while WFP itself relies 100 percent on external resourcing. Every dollar directed by donors to refugees counts," Daloum said.
To avoid a complete dry-up, WFP has embarked on a funding appeal to its non-traditional donors in the Arab world like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
"We are appealing to them to help us cover the gap so that we can procure the food in time and distribute it to the people, otherwise people's entitlement to food will be compromised," Daloum said.
The agency said it is using a biometric system to limit food leakages in the distribution chain.
"This ensures that the right people receive the assistance they need. The new food distribution procedures have been implemented already in the five settlements, and will be put into effect in all settlements by November."
Uganda hosts over 1.4 million refugees mainly from neighboring countries. This makes Uganda the third largest refugee hosting country in the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
South Sudan is the main contributor of the refugee population followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Other countries that have refugees in Uganda include Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Musa Ecweru, minister of state for refugees and disaster preparedness, argued that Uganda, unlike the developed world, has an open-door policy towards refugees.
He said refugees in Uganda are allowed to work, travel freely within the country and own land unlike in some European countries where refugees are being denied entry.
Ecweru however said Uganda is paying a heavy cost to host refugees at such a high magnitude.
"Because of the open-door policy, the burden faced by Uganda is big, the burden of infrastructure development, environmental protection, education, health. The international community should help in burden sharing."
He said although some countries have honored their pledges arising out of the refugee summit held in Uganda in 2017, more funds are still needed.