Ugandans giving refugees hope away from home

What you need to know:

  • Uganda is experiencing difficult economic times, despite that, in the spirit of ubuntu, some 31,800 individuals have arrived... since the beginning of 2023.

As we mark World Refugee Day on June 20, on behalf of the United Nations (UN) system in Uganda I congratulate the government and people of Uganda as they continue to give more than 1.5 million refugees “Hope away from home”.

No one chooses to become a refugee and anyone can become a refugee.  In his message for World Refugee Day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres notes that “More than 100 million people living in countries rocked by conflict, persecution, hunger, and climate chaos have been forced to flee their homes. These are not numbers on a page. These are individual women, children, and men making difficult journeys — often facing violence, exploitation, discrimination, and abuse.

This day reminds us of our duty to protect and support refugees — and our obligation to open more avenues of support. This includes solutions to resettle refugees and to help them rebuild their lives in dignity.”

Like most of the world, Uganda is experiencing difficult economic times, despite that, in the spirit of ubuntu, thanks to the country’s generosity and continued ‘open-door policy’  to new arrivals – some 31,800 individuals have arrived from South Sudan (53 percent) and DR Congo (47 percent) since the beginning of 2023.  

Uganda’s leadership around advancing local integration is commendable. Significant progress has been made on refugee inclusion under the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework of Uganda. Refugees have been included in the national system and services, including in the third National Development Plan (NDP III) and (education/health) sector plans, and in the upcoming national census.  The humanitarian-development nexus approach is implemented in a way that furthers Uganda’s own NDP objectives and goals.

As part of economic inclusion, refugees are allowed to work, many have received land from the government to make their livelihoods, and refugee children go to the same school alongside host children. In addition, the government has contributed significantly to the refugee response by, among others, providing security and shared access to health centres by refugees and host communities.

Such excellent results have been achieved through partnerships, hence, equally laudable are the humanitarian and development partners for their consistent support. Despite an over 46 percent gap in funds annually, humanitarian partners provided $2.3 billion for Uganda’s refugee response between 2018 and 2022, and $112.6 million was delivered by the UN Central Emergency Fund since 2014 in response to forced displacement (refugees). In addition, $1.83 billion has been committed to ongoing development projects in refugee hosting districts, with $ 536 million delivered already. 

The UN family is committed to advancing these partnerships as we deliver our support to Uganda, as a co-convener of the Global Refugee Forum, which will take place from December 13 to 15 in Geneva, Switzerland.

We are aware that the country is facing increased pressures because of decreased humanitarian funding from international partners to the refugee response in Uganda, and pressure on the environment and infrastructure in refugee settlements.

For this reason, the Uganda UN family recently re-committed to supporting the refugee response following a robust consultative process in co-creating UN’s country-level commitments on refugee inclusion to inform the UN (global) Common Pledge 2.0.  Consultations were held with various stakeholders, including the government line ministries, district authorities of refugee-hosting areas, and partners across the humanitarian-development spectrum.

Our commitment is to support the empowerment of refugees, particularly of women, the enhancement of productive capacities and economic self-reliance of refugees; and protection of the environment.

The UN is committed to addressing the root causes and drivers of displacement across the region by working with the East Africa Community (EAC) and The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Even as we strive together to address the root causes, we call on Uganda’s international partners to continue funding the refugee response, which is acutely underfunded. 

We call on the government and the people of Uganda to continue giving refugees “hope away from home”.

Susan Namondo is the United Nations  Resident Coordinator in Uganda.