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News > Uganda

Uganda: Humanitarian Situation Dire as World Marks Refugee Day

  • Refugees walk carrying a few belongings, Uganda, 2022.

    Refugees walk carrying a few belongings, Uganda, 2022. | Photo: Twitter/ @VanguardNewsUg

Published 20 June 2022

Insufficient financial resources prevent local authorities from providing answers to over 1.5 million refugees whose humanitarian situation is already very precarious.

As the world commemorates the annual World Refugee Day on Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that the refugee crisis in Uganda is worsening amid increased conflicts and reduced international financing of refugee affairs.


Uganda in Urgent Need for Funds as Refugee Figures Swell

"We may not be in a position anymore to finance the 4,000 plus teachers and 3,000-4,000 health workers we are paying. That is the situation," said Joel Boutroue, the representative of the UNHCR in Uganda.

Only 8 percent of the US$48-million emergency appeal for the refugee response in Uganda has been received. Humanitarian agencies in the East African country in April made the appeal to cover a three-month initial urgent response for an influx of up to 60,000 refugees. Relief agencies said the funds were needed to provide urgent assistance to new arrivals, mainly women and children in dire need of protection.

The appeal came at a time when Uganda's response to more than 1.5 million refugees in the country is critically underfunded. An interagency report said as of the end of March, only US$41 million had been received against the country's refugee response plan of US$804 million in funding needs for 2022.

Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the third in the world after Turkey and Colombia. The refugee situation has since worsened in recent weeks after fighting erupted in the neighboring eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), forcing thousands of Congolese to seek refuge in Uganda. Uganda Red Cross Society said the recent influx was overwhelming the provision of social amenities in the host communities.

Esther Anyakun, the minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, said that while Uganda continues to be a haven of safety and security for thousands of people fleeing conflict, the international community equally has to play its role in sharing the burden.

"This growing refugee population serves as a reminder that we must find long-term solutions to the world's conflicts and assist countries grappling with the refugee crisis," a statement from Uganda's Office of the Prime Minister said.

Uganda's asylum policy must continue to be supported generously. The country has an open-door refugee policy where refugees are allowed to work, cultivate the land they have been given and move freely. The rapid dwindling of resources has led to multiple cuts in food rations since April 2020, with some refugees receiving only 40 percent of their survival food basket, according to the UN World Food Program (WFP).

Francis Iwa, the executive director of Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants, said that while the world's attention is on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the eastern DRC crisis needs urgent attention. Failure to do so, according to Iwa, the world would face another humanitarian catastrophe, which could have been prevented if acted upon earlier.

East African Community (EAC) member countries are now gathering support to address the recent fighting between the Congolese troops and M23 rebels who overwhelmed the government forces and took over the border town of Bunagana. The fighting also comes amid a diplomatic spat between DRC and Rwanda with DRC accusing Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels. Rwanda has denied the allegations.

EAC states are working on deploying a military force in eastern DRC that will fight negative forces that have failed to enter negotiations with the Congolese government. Regional leaders on Monday gathered in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to discuss the DRC crisis. 


Joel Boutroue
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