Uganda, UNHCR launch Refugee Response Plan

Refugee pupils study from a tent at Kiryandongo settlement.

Uganda, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and 68 humanitarian partners have launched a refugee response plan aimed at catering for humanitarian challenges in a holistic, comprehensive and integrated manner.

The plan dubbed, the Uganda Country Refugee Response Plan appeal (UCRRP) covering the period between 2022 and 2025, is aimed at supporting the country in maintaining asylum space, providing lifesaving assistance, improving access to public services and strengthening peaceful co-existence and self-reliance of refugees and host communities.

Speaking during the launch on Wednesday at Silver Springs Bugoloobi, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Mr Hilary Onek, noted that the development comes at a time when Uganda is in need of support from partners since there is a high influx of refugees coming to Uganda, especially from DR Congo and South Sudan.

“Our partners such as European Union, USA and Japan have truly contributed towards support of the refugee in Uganda for the last three years. Currently, we have over 1.6million refugees. So, we need more support for this call of harbouring refugees from the nearby countries. Almost every year we spend over US$550m that is if every refugee takes 11/2 dollars,” Mr Onek said.

He added that countries whose citizens who come to Uganda as refugees do not contribute towards supporting their people.

“We need to sit down with these governments and agree on how to support their citizens and also find out ways of mitigating peace in these countries so that the rate of refugee influx into Uganda reduces.”

Uganda continues to be Africa’s largest refugee-hosting country with more than 1.6 million refugees from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and other countries.

About 93 per cent of refugees live in settlements located in 12 districts of Uganda including Kikuube and Kiryandongo in Bunyoro region.

However, there is still a gap in maintaining and supporting these refugees given the fact that there is a presumed fatigue in the funders who have been channelling their support through Uganda’s government.

The response humanitarian plan launched appeals for over USD804 million for 2022, to address critical needs for protection, food, shelter and essential household items.

Mr Joel Boutroue, the UNHCR representative in Uganda, noted that pressing humanitarian needs, refugees, their host communities and the general population face exacerbated economic, environmental and development challenges that continue to require support in the refugee-hosting districts.

“Uganda has long been a global leader in its approach to peaceful co-existence and local settlement of refugees with the host communities. The Uganda model can only be sustained with funding proportionate to the scale of the refugee situation we face,” said Boutroue.

According to Mr Boutroue, funding will also support urgently needed supplies, water sanitation and hygiene services and contribute to promoting refugees’ social-economic inclusion in Uganda, in line with the government’s commitments to achieving the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and its Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).

Ms Esther Anyukun, the Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees in the office of the Prime Minister said that the government of Uganda has continuously demonstrated its unwavering support for people who are fleeing from danger and looking for safety and security.

“Given the scale of the refugee presence in Uganda, urgent funding is required for the refugee response to ensure that women, men and children who have fled here continue to have access to protection services, and life-saving assistance.”

Uganda has received more than 35,000 new arrivals fleeing war and persecution in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since January 2022.

This is in addition to the 1.5 million refugees already hosted in the country, making Uganda Africa’s largest refugee-hosting country.

Out of the 35,000, 28 per cent are from South Sudan, and 72 per cent are DRC.

Given the severe underfunding of the refugee response in Uganda, only USD 41 million have been received for the Country Refugee Response Plan by mid-April 2022, covering five per cent of the total USD 804 million funding needs for 2022.

Therefore, additional contributions are urgently needed to address the emergency needs of new arrivals while upgrading the reception capacity and basic infrastructures in refugee settlements.

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