Experts have expressed concern over psychosocial support gaps in different communities including conflict-hit areas, refugee camps or settlements and the host communities.
This follows a shocking report that at least 60 refugees committed suicide in refugee settlements across Uganda in 2022, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee-UNHCR in December 2022.
The report confirmed that that the highest number of death by suicide occurred among male refugees representing 67% compared to 33% among female refugees. Hanging by a rope, poison and drug overdose are the leading methods used by the victims.
Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in Kamwenge District western Uganda recorded 12 suicides cases making it the highest, followed by Bidibidi refugee settlement in Yumbe district northern Uganda with 11 cases, Adjumani refugee settlement northern Uganda and Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Kibuube District western Uganda both recorded 7 cases.
Oruchinga Refugee Settlement in Isingiro District and Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Kiryandongo district western Uganda recorded the least number of cases with 1 each, followed by Palabek refugee settlement in Lamwo district northern Uganda with 2 cases. Other refugee suicide cases were recorded in Nakivale refugee settlement (4) in Isingiro district, Kyaka (II 5) in Kyegegwa district, Rhino camp Madi-Okollo and Terego districts, Palorinya in Moyo district western Uganda, and Imvepi refugee settlement in Terego district registered 3 cases each.
According to Racheal Kisakye Tukahiirwa who is the Mental health and psychosocial support supervisor at Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation-TPO Uganda that’s implementing partner delivering mental health and psychosocial support for refugees in Uganda, such incidents in the refugee settlements/camps are a frightening reality and some cases occurred among the children.
The report also attributes these cases to family disagreements and domestic violence, substance abuse, lack of basic needs, abandonment by the spouse, and community stigmatization. Experts say some cases aren’t reported or are not properly covered by the media or other stakeholders.
One of the refugees (a South Sudanese refugee in Bidibidi settlement Yumbe district) says there is a need to address inadequacies in the provision of psychosocial support for refugees.
“This practice of refugees committing suicide is common here. There is a need to expand the provision of psychosocial support and counseling for refugees”, he said.
Another refugee in Rhino camp refugee settlement decried hard economic situation amidst reduced food rations is one of the driving forces for the high incidents of suicide deaths among the refugees.
Police, the government, UNHCR and other stakeholders have now been challenged to work jointly and curb such incidents. As of December 31, 2022, Uganda hosts 1,495,688 refugees and asylum seekers. Story compiled by Aaron Ainomugisha.