“As we join the rest of the world to commemorate World Refugee Day, we reaffirm our commitment to continue to work with the Government of Uganda to strengthen resilience among vulnerable refugees and host communities and improve their peaceful cohabitation,” said Anna Merrifield, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the European Union to Uganda. In 2021, the EU has so far provided EUR 34.8 million(UGX 151 billion) of humanitarian assistance to Uganda, out of which EUR 2.8 million (UGX 12 billion) in support of the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, of which 62% are from South Sudan. Giving refugees the right to land, movement and work, Uganda has an open and progressive refugee policy that is inspiring other countries in the world. Even if borders are closed to asylum since March 2020, as a prevention measure to COVID-19, Uganda has temporarily opened its borders to neighbours fleeing conflict.
The situation has become particularly critical in recent months, with food security deteriorating in all refugee settlements. Basic social services, such as health care and education, are also coming under increased pressure since the start of COVID-19, as protection needs are skyrocketing. Women, girls, and people with disabilities are disproportionately affected. The impact is especially hard on children with the closure of schools, leading to significant increase in school dropout rates, child labour, and early teenage pregnancies. With the spread of COVID-19, it is imperative that all development partners work together with the Government of Uganda to meet the basic needs of refugees as a first step to prevent violence, while considering options to safely re-open schools.
The European Union focuses its humanitarian investment in Uganda on the settlement of recently arrived refugees, coverage of their basic needs via cash-based assistance and improved access to basic services (protection, health, water sanitation and hygiene, and education). Building on the experience gained through the Ebola outbreak, partners are supporting district authorities to coordinate and manage the local response. Making the nexus between the EU’s humanitarian aid and longer-term development assistance, the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa helps to increase the resilience of the most vulnerable by addressing the longer-term needs of refugees and their host communities, including improving economic and employment opportunities with skilling. The EU also supports efforts to promote protection against environmental shocks and natural disasters and access to justice and protection.
“In response to the spread of COVID-19, our partners have swiftly adapted their projects, creating awareness of the virus and promoting health and hygiene measures to mitigate its spread. This allowed health centers to remain functional with community workers at the front of the awareness. Those adaptations also included innovations, such as the expansion of contactless modalities via mobile money, which we see as an improvement for refugees thanks to the double impact. Receiving cash instead of in-kind handouts gives refugees the choice of purchasing what they need the most, contributing to their dignity. Injecting cash in refugee hosting districts also stimulates the local economy, building blocks to create livelihood opportunities, hence a better environment for self-reliance,” said Isabelle D’Haudt, Head of EU Humanitarian Aid Operations in Uganda.
World Refugee Day, commemorated annually on 20th June, honours the strength and resilience of refugees and encourages public awareness and support of the refugees, people who have had to flee their home lands because of conflict or natural disaster.