Uganda needs more help in world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis

Uganda’s “open door” policy toward refugees – now being held up around the world as a gold standard – could quickly buckle and fail unless the international community respond in full to the country’s $673 million UN appeal.

International donors have pledged only $117 million so far to Uganda out of the 637 million needed for the county’s South Sudan refugee response. So far the $1.38 billion UN appeal for the region’s response to the world’s fast-growing refugee crisis is only 15% funded.

Almost a million people have fled South Sudan for Uganda since December 2013. This year an average of 2,000 people have arrived each day. Uganda is now hosting more than 1.25 million refugees in total, a number which has doubled over the last year. The vast majority – 86% – are women and children who need specific support to keep them safe from rape, beatings, torture, hunger and abandonment.

Peter Kamalingin, Oxfam’s Uganda Country Director, said: “Uganda hosts the third-largest population of refugees in the world and yet it is one of the most under-funded host nations. This is both highly unfair and highly unsustainable. Uganda must get the support it needs to continue its welcoming policies toward its neighbor.”

Uganda is hosting the first Refugee Solidarity Summit on 22 and 23 June. Oxfam is calling on the international community to provide funds, humanitarian aid and, crucially, to pave the way for a peaceful resolution to conflicts in neighboring countries. 

‘’Governments urgently need to invest in the Uganda response to ensure that refugees and their host communities are provided with shelter and protection among other urgent needs. Local humanitarian agencies here have a vital understanding of the context of the crisis, so they need to be supported to deal with the needs of refugees in timely and cost-effective ways,’’ Kamalingin said.

Uganda’s policies provide a basis for refugees to be able to access land, shelter and employment. Kamalingin continued: “On paper, these policies are laudable and Uganda is rightly being praised – but it needs to be supported too. Host communities also need land, clean water, food and employment opportunities. Uganda is balancing people’s needs as best it can for the moment, but it won’t be able to sustain that over time without proper backing.”

Speaking on behalf of fifty national and local organizations who were consulted ahead of the summit, Paparu Lilian Obiale, Humanitarian Progam Manager at CEFORD, an Oxfam partner in the West Nile region, said: “Ugandan civil society hopes that the summit will not only raise the profile of refugees in Uganda but also bring much needed funding and encourage real discussion about the root causes of the displacement in the region. There needs to be genuine discussion about how we foster sustainable futures both for refugees and those in hosting communities." 

"Most importantly, it should not be lost to regional governments and International community that the most urgent relief for a refugee is peace at home,” Mr. Kamalingin cautioned.

Notes to editors

Oxfam’s Refugee Response: Oxfam’s and partner response program is currently reaching over 280,000 refugees across four districts providing life-saving assistance, clean water, sanitation hygiene including construction of pit latrines, sustainable livelihoods and integrating gender and protection work. Oxfam and partners are actively engaged in advocacy for sustainable approaches to the refugee response as well as peace building at local level, national, regional and international levels.

Over the last 4 years, Oxfam in Uganda invested in pilot humanitarian capacity building for over 15 local and national organizations across different parts of Uganda. Those partners, working closely with Oxfam have critical in delivering timely and quality humanitarian services to people in need including during the influx of refugees from DRC in 2012/13, the influx of South Sudanese refugees since Dec 2013 to date. On the basis of this pilots here in Uganda as well as in many other parts of the world where Oxfam works, Oxfam designed a three year project called ELNHA (Enhancing local and National Humanitarian Actors capacities) to take this approach to scale and especially to bring on board more partners and stakeholders including national governments and institutions, local governments, International NGOs, local NGOs, private sector, and donors.

Contact information

For more information or interview requests on Oxfam and partner response on the summit, please contact Dorah Ntunga,  dorah.ntunga@oxfam.org, +256 774853745.

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