Refugees cook food after they entered Uganda recently. PHOTO UNHCR
Uganda Emergency Appeal: UNHCR in Shs 170 billion fundraising drive to support latest influx of refugees into the country
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) together with 44 humanitarian organizations are appealing for close to Shs 170bn (US$48 million) to help them respond better to the basic needs of thousands of refugees who are fleeing war in their home countries into Uganda.
The “Uganda Emergency Appeal” covers a three-month initial emergency response for an influx of up to 60,000 refugees in Uganda. Funding is expected to support urgently needed healthcare supplies, and water, sanitation and hygiene services needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.
“Uganda’s exemplary asylum policy must continue to be supported generously,” said Joel Boutroue, the UNHCR Country Representative in Uganda. “As interagency partners, we are requesting USD 47.8 million to address critical needs surging for protection, food, shelter and essential household items,” he said.
“The Ugandan government, UNHCR, and interagency humanitarian partners have joined forces to provide emergency relief to new arrival refugees, mainly women and children in dire need of protection and humanitarian assistance,” said Esther Anyakun, Uganda’s Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees.
The appeal from the humanitarian agencies comes just weeks after the government of Uganda stopped short of shutting its borders from refugees running away from violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and sporadic clashes in South Sudan.
Hillary Onek, Uganda’s current Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees recently said the government was failing to cope with the influx of refugees from its northern and western neighbours. Onek said among the options the government was considering was to discuss with both the governments of South Sudan and DR Congo on the possibility of sharing the burden of hosting the refugees in Uganda.
Onek said Uganda was considering asking the two governments to either contribute resources or keep its fleeing people in other more peaceful parts of these countries.
Since January, this year, Uganda has welcomed over 35,000 refugees with a third of this number arriving in just the past three weeks from the DR Congo, fleeing intense fighting in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
From the end of March, the rapid escalation of conflict in eastern DR Congo and reports of violence in South Sudan has triggered an immediate and steep rise for humanitarian assistance in Uganda.
The appeal focuses on prioritized needs within the Uganda Country Refugee Response Plan (UCRRP) which originally projected for the reception of 67,000 new arrivals in 2022, yet at this point over half of this planning figure has been reached by mid-April 2022.
From the front line of the response, Francis Iwa, the executive director of local NGO, Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI), said “while the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine, we urge for peace in the DRC. Failing this, interagency partners need additional resources and supplies to meet the humanitarian imperative of the people who have fled to Uganda.”
This emergency situation comes in addition to a severely underfunded refugee response addressing the basic needs of approximately 1.5 million refugees already present in the country.
As of 31 March 2022, interagency partners report that only USD 41 million have been received against the Country Refugee Response Plan, covering 5 percent of the total USD 804 million funding needs for 2022.
While appearing on a news segment on April 21, this year, to discuss the most recent episode of refugee influx in Uganda, Anyakun told NBS television on April 21 that there seems to be fatigue among international donors. The burden of refugees is an international burden. Anyakun said Uganda is also considering reviewing the policy of voluntary repatriation. So far about 5,000 Burundian refugees have elected to return to their country of birth.
More worryingly, Anyakun said Uganda is bracing for even more challenges as the country expects an influx of refugees in the coming six months. With the Russia-Ukraine crisis still going on, donors have run out of funds.
With about 1.6 million refugees living within its borders, Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa living in over a dozen refugee settlements.