Infrastructure in 8 refugee host districts to get facelift

A road without a bridge in Namisindwa District. Photo by Yahudu Kitunzi

What you need to know:

  • A refugee dilemma is putting enormous pressure on Local Governments to provide infrastructure and other services to the rapidly increasing population in eight refugee hosting districts and 22 municipalities, Franklin Draku writes.

Government is hopeful that the implementation of $360m (Shs1.34t) Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development Program-Additional Financing (USMID-AF) will improve infrastructure and land tenure security in refugee hosting districts in Uganda.

The programme will address the infrastructure crisis in the selected districts. Among the projects to be undertaken include road works, drainage, street lighting and mitigating environmental impacts in the 22 implementing municipalities.

In the refugee hosting districts, focus is on district physical development planning and supporting land tenure security for host communities and refugees plus small scale infrastructural investments.
The Permanent Secretary ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms Dorcas Okalany said the refugee dilemma is putting enormous pressure on Local Governments to provide infrastructure and other services to the rapidly increasing population.

She said confusions in performance should be addressed.
“I have been informed about some confusion within some local governments regarding annual performance assessments.
Project Support Team under the leadership of Eng. Isaac Mutenyo should ensure that participants go back to their stations with clear messages regarding annual assessments,” she said.

The programme
The programme will cover a total of eight refugee hosting districts and 22 municipalities across the country. While the programmes under the municipalities will majorly focus on infrastructure development, under the refugee hosting districts, the focus will be on district physical development planning and supporting land tenure security for host communities and refugees.
Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development shall carry out systematic land demarcation and titling for host communities and refugees.

The third component under support to refugee hosting districts is small scale infrastructural investments in host districts. Districts shall select and prioritise infrastructure investments that fit within their annual funds allocation, which shall be identified through a local participatory process.

For the 22 Municipalities, focus will be on enhanced capacity in generating own source revenue, urban planning, providing a conducive environment for private sector investment and job creation. Focus will also be on financial management, procurement management and environmental and social systems.
Urban infrastructure in 22 municipalities will also be expanded. There will be enhanced service delivery through improved local infrastructure, physical planning and land tenure security.

Under the municipal institutional support grant, $10m (Shs37.2b) will be disbursed, while $245m (Shs910b) will be given for performance-based municipal development grants.
For support to local governments hosting refugees to improve planning, land tenure security and small scale infrastructure investments targeting refugees and host communities worth $60m (Shs224.9b) is budgeted while $45m (Shs168.7b) will remain with MLHUD to administer and coordinate the program.

Dr Chris Baryomonsi, the state minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, said USMID Programme is responding to the development challenges associated with unprecedented urbanisation such as slums, poor sanitation, land degradation and poor infrastructure which Uganda is now facing.
He said government recognises the role of local governments and other actors as first responders to large-scale refugee situations and can experience significant impact of refugees and other migrants in the short and medium term.

“While acknowledging that immigration is a state prerogative, local governments of every continent are at the forefront of managing the impact of migration as well promoting inclusive, safe and sustainable societies. While local governments have no decision making power in relation to who comes to a national territory or the conditions of their stay. It is in local governments that a majority of migrants and refugees settle, with local administration as front-line service providers.”

Mr Baryomonsi said despite some improvements in infrastructure across the country, Uganda, just like most of the countries in Africa, ranks at the bottom of all developing regions in most dimensions of infrastructure performance indicators.

“Not only does Uganda’s existing infrastructure fall short of its needs, it lags well behind infrastructure development in other poor regions. Poor maintenance is leaving much of the existing infrastructure in a decrepit state, further hindering economic growth and discouraging new investment.”
He challenged the leaders to support the programme so that Uganda can meet the minimum standards for urban development.

“Proper implementation of USMID AF Program will also position Uganda in the correct trajectory on the focus of the New Urban Agenda.
He said land is one resource which is fuelling conflict between refugees and the host communities.
“We are hopeful that through the implementation of the USMID AF Program, the Ministry will be able to respond swiftly to land questions in refugee hosting districts,” he noted

Uganda hosts more than a million refugees from South Sudan, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Eritrea and other African countries. Since the South Sudanese refugee explosion Uganda has had to grapple with huge costs of fending for the refugees, with a heavy toll on the infrastructure in the refugee hosting districts.
Government in 2017 organised refugee solidarity summit in which pledges of over $350m (Shs1.3 trillion) were made.

However, last year, government accused the international NGOs of hijacking funds from their home countries that had pledged to support the refugees. Only China and India had fulfilled their pledges at the time.
Government has since then been forced into borrowing to put up infrastructure in the refugee hosting districts, a decision which has also met some opposition from within with critics wondering why Ugandan taxpayers should carry the burden of repaying the loan when the responsibility to cater for refugee lies with UNHCR.

What district leaders, USMID-AF secretariat agreed

During a consultative meeting of leaders from the refugee hosting districts held in Jinja recently, the 22 USMID implementing municipalities and team from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, agreed on how work will be done on time.
Officials from the ministry and the local governments agreed to avoid delays since the programme must be completed in the next five years.
• Through the implementation of the USMID AF Programme, the Ministry hopes to address critical land questions in refugee hosting districts. The district leaders (chairman LCV, Resident District Commissioners and Chief Administrative Officers) must provide adequate support and other activities under the land component of USMID AF.
• Environment should be given special attention due to unprecedented destruction of different ecosystems in the refugee hosting districts etc.
• From experience of first phase of USMID, it was noted that the project is structured in a technical manner, making hard for implementing partners to comprehend within the shortest time possible. Therefore, there is need to adopt a practical approach using an illustration of a sub project from identification stage to completion. Such a presentation should bring a full package of physical planning, environment, procurement, financial requirement, engineering, communication, social issues.