For decades now, Uganda has been a convenient
destination for refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring conflict-afflicted
areas such as Burundi, Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mozambique, South
Africa and Zimbabwe. The country first experienced welcoming refugees’ in World
War II when 7,000 Polish refugees fleeing the violence in Europe were hosted in
Nyabyeya and Kojja in 1942. In 1955, Uganda became deeply immersed in the
“refugee problem” after 78,000 Sudanese refugees entered during the Anyanya
civil war. This influx was soon followed by the arrival of numerous refugees
generated by unrest in the aftermath of the various struggles for independence
in Kenya.

 

Since their independence in 1962, Uganda has been calculated
to have hosted an average of approximately 161,000 refugees per year. Uganda is
now home to 1.2 million refugees from 14 countries with at least 86% comprising
of women and children; these refugees are settled in various refugee
settlements in nine districts. It is therefore argued that Uganda’s forward-looking
approach is being stretched to its limits. Uganda has currently taken the honor
of being the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, after surpassing
Ethiopia and Kenya in early 2017.

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While political perspectives in South Sudan remain
bleak, famine has been declared in some parts of the country, thus increasing
the chance of more refugees escaping into Uganda, adding pressure to an already
extreme humanitarian crisis. The form of wellbeing in other source countries;
upcoming elections in Democratic Republic of Congo, instability in Burundi,
Somalia and Eritrea also play a big part in further induced displacement into
Uganda in 2017. Uganda has now become the largest host-country in Africa with
over a million refugees and is predicted to keep on growing.

 

Although Uganda has progressive and impressive policies
towards refugees, providing them with land to grow food, the right to work and
freedom of movement, there is increasing pressure on the government due to the large
scale of the crisis. These policies are therefore becoming harder to implement,
as funding is still limited, and available land becomes scarce. The delegation
of Uganda recognizes that in due time Uganda will, unfortunately, not be able
to produce enough funds for the safety and hosting of the countless refugees in
the country.

 

To improvise in this time Uganda has transferred refugees
with some income or ability to fend for themselves in cities and have removed
them from refugee camps. A commendable and understandable level of peaceful
coexistence is evident between refugees and host communities in all the
settlements. Intermarriages are reported in many settlements, contributing to
improved relationships. Government had announced that they will be forced to
halve food rations or cash assistance in Uganda and put priority focus on those
refugees most in need.

“Around 200,000 refugees who arrived in Uganda prior
to July 2015 will have   their food
rations or cash assistance reduced by 50 per cent from this week,” according to
a joint press release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP) and Uganda’s Office of the
Prime Minister.

As the above statement shows, the UN is in
full support of the Ugandan Government’s actions and are doing as much as the
government to reduce problems for the refugees.

 

The
conclusions of the topic is that as the government of
Uganda and UNHCR are doing their best to reduce poverty and expel risk for
vulnerable refugees and their host communities, the close involvement of key contributors
such as district leadership, sector ministries, host communities, and refugees,
is a must. A shift in the philosophy of refugee assistance is also crucial:
refugees should be viewed as economic actors in charge of their destiny rather
than as beneficiaries of aid. To ensure impact, the focus should be on
transformative investments that will address the pressing needs of refugees and
host communities alike and that will jump-start local economies. Further, a
comprehensive approach is needed to enhance girls and women’s access to
education and livelihoods and to reduce security and safety risks among them.
Specific attention and backstopping is needed for urban refugees—especially
youth—to enable them to benefit from social and economic opportunities without
being exploited or resorting to risky behaviors.

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