May 9, 2017 / 1:33 PM / 3 years ago

Uganda seeks $2 billion for South Sudan refugees at planned summit

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda hopes to raise $2 billion in donations at a U.N. refugee summit next month to help fund relief operations for refugees flowing in from neighbouring South Sudan, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said on Tuesday.

The east African country hosts a total of 1.2 million refugees, of which almost 800,000 are South Sudanese who fled the world’s youngest country since the outbreak of civil war.

Rugunda said Uganda faced difficulties in coping with the influx, which ballooned recently since the latest wave of violence erupted in July.

“The ... numbers are placing a huge strain on our already stressed ability to cater for food,” he told a news conference.

“We are hoping that ... we will be able to raise $2 billion from the summit,” he said in Kampala, where the U.N.-hosted gathering is set to be held.

The conflict in the oil-producing country began when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar in 2013, two years after the country won independence from neighbouring Sudan.

The fighting that followed split the country along ethnic lines, spurred hyperinflation and plunged parts of the nation into famine, creating Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

The latest bout of warfare erupted in July, less than a year after both sides signing a peace pact in 2015.

Rugunda said the money Kampala sought to raise from the summit would fund relief operations for the next twelve months from June.

Uganda has won plaudits for its liberal refugee policy that maintains open borders and allocates land plots to individual refugee families.

Kampala also grants refugees free movement and employment in the country, as well as some public services such as free education and healthcare.

Rugunda said Uganda expected an additional 400,000 refugees to arrive in the country this year “because of the recurring cycles of insecurity and instability in the region.”

(This story corrects prime minister’s name to Rugunda in first, 3rd paras.)

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Aaron Maasho and Tom Heneghan

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