Falling funds hamper Uganda’s response to help refugees

Refugees set for Kyangwali Settlement in Kikuube District from Lake Albert shores recently. (File photo)

Uganda’s Country Representative for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Mr Joel Boutrout has said the Commission will not have money to cater for refugees in Uganda by September 2020.

Addressing the media on Friday ahead of today’s World Refugees Day, Mr Boutrout said UNHCR will be unable to support refugees in education and health services in the host communities.

He attributed the financial crisis to coronavirus disease that has hampered world economies.

Nonetheless, Mr Boutrout urged countries and able individuals to offer what they can afford to support the refugees before the situation worsens.

The urge is for all stakeholders globally to find homes for the many refugees displaced by persecution, conflict or events disturbing public order.

By the time of his call, UNHCR had just released its annual Global Trends report showing that an unprecedented 79.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2019, representing an all-time high in displacements over the years.

But at the same time, there are diminishing prospects for refugees when it comes to hopes of any quick end to their plight.

“I would say failing to sustain the effort, we may have to take drastic efforts because we will not able to support refugees’ education, we will not be able to support more than 100 health centres in refugee-hosting communities and we will not be able to provide non-food support,” Mr Boutrout said.

Statistics on refugees in Uganda that were released in February this year show the country hosts 1,394,678 refugees and 25,640 asylum seekers.

Over the years, Uganda has been praised for being a beacon because of its friendly laws and policies towards refugees.

“Uganda has shown a refuge model. Refugees contribute positively to the development of regions where they are hosted. But the lockdown is impacting Ugandans and refugees. People are losing their jobs. Refugees are unable to cross borders to cultivate in South Sudan,” Mr Boutrout said.

Mr Boutrout said that this has hampered all self-sustaining efforts of refugees because of restricted movements and business operations that were put on halt in order to prevent the spread of the contagious disease.

Uganda hosts the third-largest number of refugees in the world slightly behind Turkey and Pakistan. Most of the refugees in Uganda according to Mr Gerald Menya, the Commissioner for refugees come from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.

Uganda has so far recorded 755 positive cases of COVID-19. Of these, 492 have already recovered.

But according to Mr Menya, there are more than 800 refugees in quarantine, 44 of them having been confirmed to have COVID-19 are already receiving treatment.

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