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For decades now, Uganda has been a convenient
destination for refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring conflict-afflicted
areas such as Burundi, Rwanda, 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 study is that as the government of
Uganda and UNHCR strive to reduce poverty and mitigate risk for vulnerable
refugees and their host communities, the close involvement of key stakeholders,
such as district leadership, sector ministries, host communities, and refugees,
is imperative. A shift in the philosophy of refugee assistance is also crucial:
refugees should be viewed as economic actors in charge of their destiny
(development approach) rather than as beneficiaries of aid (humanitarian appro`ach).
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muneeb Alvi

9-D

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