Over 1,000 Ugandans and their 3, 000 head of cattle were caught in the middle of a crisis after Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) authorities deported them from the east of the country, local media reported Sunday.
The evicted pastoralists were now living in congested conditions at the Mpondwe border post, where they lacked the bare minimums of safe clean water, food, shelter, sanitation and medical supplies according to Wilson Isingoma, Kasese Resident District Commissioner (RDC).
He said so far 700 pastoralists had trekked back home with nearly 3,000 head of cattle and that more were expected.
The DRC gave a 30-day ultimatum from March 7 to the pastoralists, who had been accused of illegally living in and encroaching on Virunga National Park.
"We are launching an appeal for help. I have informed the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness," Isingoma said, adding that some had started suffering from diarrhea and malaria.
The pastoralists, who comprise mainly Basongora herdsmen from Kasese District and their families, were evicted from Karuruma, where they have been living since 1999.
A team of district leaders and partners like CARE International, Kasese District Development Network, Uganda Red Cross, Foundation for Urban and Rural Advancement and Save the Children have identified a temporary settlement for the deported pastoralists but they say it is inadequate to support the swelling population.
Their cattle are quarantined in Queen Elizabeth National Park, a move which has caused concern among Uganda Wildlife Authority officials who fear that they may spread disease since they have not been vaccinated for many years.
"I am confident that you will use your good offices to contact the relevant authority so that together we can chart a way forward in amicably receiving and resettling these people and their livestock," Queen Elizabeth National Park Chief Warden, Tom Okello, said in a letter to the RDC.
The pastoralists have been migrating mainly from Nyakatonzi in Kasese District over the last few years due to drought and a shortage of grazing land.