US announces Shs95b funding to Uganda for refugees

Congolese refugees fetch water at Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro District in October 2023. PHOTO/ROBERT MUHEREZA

The United States announced Friday that it had provided more than $25 million (about Shs95 billion) in refugee and food security assistance to Uganda. 

The aid which is part of the US government commitments, is channeled through its foreign development agency, USAID and the Department of State.

This is in addition to humanitarian funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Program (WFP) to assist refugees in the country "facing ongoing food insecurity and the compounding impacts of conflict in the region," USAID Spokesperson, Jessica Jennings said.

USAID is providing $11 million to WFP, while the Department of State is contributing more than $14 million to UNHCR. 

"These additional contributions to WFP and UNHCR will support the provision of life-saving monthly food assistance, health care, education, and other emergency relief to the more than 1.6 million refugees that Uganda hosts," she said in a statement.

Th funding comes as the East African nation, Africa's largest host of refugees, has in recent months seen an increased influx of refugees from mostly conflict-riddled neighboring countries.

Last year alone, more than 130,000 new refugees crossed into the country, primarily fleeing conflicts in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan. 

The US urged other countries to also step up their humanitarian assistance to Uganda in these areas.

"This additional funding will be vital to meeting urgent needs in the country. We urge other donors to join us in stepping up to support WFP and UNHCR to assist the most vulnerable people affected by conflict and other crises throughout the region," Jennings added.

The government has recently forfeited several aid and credit packages as well as seen some leaders slapped with travel sanctions on claims around the human rights record of the country.

"The United States is committed to ensuring our assistance is provided without discrimination, including in Uganda, where we have significant concerns about the impact of the Uganda Constitutional Court’s recent decision to uphold most aspects of the Anti-Homosexuality Act."

The US also urges that "Uganda’s government must protect the dignity of all people in the country."

The reduction in aid, however, began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine has also led to relocation of the resources especially by the West.
"In 2018, around 170 dollars (155 euro) per year was spent on each refugee, today, it is only 85 dollars (77 euro)," according to Bruno Rotival, Head of Uganda at the European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO).

The EU allocated 27.5 million euros (Shs111.7 billion) for 2024, down from 30.5 million euros (about 124 billion) the previous year. 

"All operations around the world suffer from a funding gap. More acute crises receive more funds, while Uganda being a more stabilized country, perhaps suffers a little more in the provision of humanitarian aid!"

According to Rotival, Uganda was identified by the EU as a country in which to begin the transition from a system based on humanitarian aid to one based on development cooperation, however, the Russia-Ukraine has complicated the plan as the EU had to cut its overall humanitarian budget by 20 percent.