We need Shs3 trillion for refugees - Minister Onek

Disaster minister. Hilary Onek

What you need to know:

  • He also said the refugee crisis remains grossly underfunded.

The minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Mr Hilary Onek,  has said the country is in dire need of about Shs3 trillion to cater for the surging number of refugees pouring into the country.

The minister made the appeal during a meeting with representatives of donors at his office in Kampala on Friday.

He said the refugee crisis remains grossly underfunded yet the refugees are fighting for the limited resources with the locals.

“When we see these refugees coming in now, and there is a requirement for settling them, including accommodation, feeding them continually, looking after their health and the education bit, it requires about $804m (about Shs3 trillion),”Mr Onek said.

He explained that since the beginning of the year, Uganda has been having an influx of refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through Bunagana border post  into Kisoro District, and they expect more.

He added that currently, the country is hosting a total of about 1.5m refugees.

Uganda has over the last two months seen an upsurge in the number of Congolese refugees following renewed fighting between M23 rebels and the Congolese government soldiers.

Mr Onek said the refugee burden must be shared and called upon the international community to support Uganda.

“I encourage the donors to come up and support Uganda to meet our corrective obligations to the refugees and host communities because we are exceeding preceding numbers,” he said.

“In the emergence appeal, we got a pledge of about $530m (about Shs2 trillion). Uganda only received $1.5m (about Shs5b) in the account that we opened. The other countries gave their monies to NGOs that were operating in Uganda so that they would manage refugee programmes here. We never received the money,” Mr Onek said.

He noted that the Shs5b they received from China and India was used to develop infrastructure such as schools and health centres in the refugee settlements.

Danish support

The Ambassador of Denmark to Uganda, Mr Petersen Nicolaj Hejberg, pledged his country’s support to Uganda’s refuge crisis. “There are very many refugees and the international community has the obligation to help Uganda lift its responsibilities. So we will in our next five-year programme, as we discussed with His Excellency and our minister, support Uganda’s open door policy,” he said.

The UNHCR representative to Uganda, Mr Joel Boutroue, said they are committed to supporting refugees and host communities in Uganda.

Mr Boutroue noted that Uganda has no land left to resettle the refugees.

“We are in discussion with the government on how to mobilise resources probably to buy more land for new settlements,” he added.