At least 60 refugees committed suicide in refugee settlements across Uganda last year, according to a report by UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. Hanging by a rope, poison and drug overdose are the leading methods used by the victims of suicide in the settlements.
Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in Kamwenge District recorded the highest number of suicides with 12 cases, followed by Bidibidi refugee settlement in Yumbe district with 11 cases, Adjumani refugee settlement and Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Kibuube District both recorded 7 cases.
Oruchinga Refugee Settlement in Isingiro District and Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Kiryandongo district recorded the least number of death by suicide with a case each followed by Palabek refugee settlement in Lamwo district with 2 cases.
Other cases were recorded in Nakivale refugee settlement 4 cases, Kyaka II 5 cases, Rhino camp, Paloringa, and Imvepi refugee settlements registered 3 death cases each due to suicide last year.
Racheal Kisakye Tukahiirwa, the Mental health and psychosocial support supervisor at TPO Uganda, the implementing partner delivering mental health and psychosocial support for refugees in Uganda says that the incidents of suicide and death in the refugee settlement are a frightening reality. She says some of the death cases due to suicide occurred among the children.
According to the report, family disagreements and domestic violence has been identified as the leading triggers of suicides. Others are substance abuse, lack of basic needs, abandonment by the spouse, and community stigmatization.
Elias Wundagu, a South Sudanese refugee in Bidibidi settlement in Yumbe district says that 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.
Scovia Amani, another refugee in Rhino camp refugee settlement explains that the hard economic situation amidst reduced food rations is one of the driving forces for the high incidents of suicide deaths among the refugees.
“The cost of leaving is high this time. Even the food rations have since reduced which has complicated life for some refugees”, she noted.
The report further indicates that the highest number of death by suicide occurred among male refugees representing 67 percent compared to 33 percent of death by suicide among female refugees.
However, Josephine Angucia, the Police spokesperson for the West Nile region has cautioned the refugees and host community members against taking their own lives.
According to the latest Refugee Statistics by UNHCR as of December 31, 2022, Uganda hosts 1,495,688 refugees and asylum seekers.