January 27, 2023

Nearly 100,000 refugee arrivals in Uganda face a silent emergency, enormous needs

Refugees shown returning home to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the Nyakabande transit centre in Kisoro, Uganda, where many remain to see how the situation unfolds © UNHCR/Esther Ruth Mbabazi

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR Representative in Uganda, Matthew Crentsil – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Amid surging humanitarian needs for 96,000 refugees who have fled to Uganda so far this year, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners urgently require US$68 million for life-saving assistance and services.

As refugees from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to flee violence and seek safety in Uganda, the humanitarian response is being stretched to breaking point.

In an inter-agency appeal, being revised from April, which covered an initial period of three months, UNHCR and 41 partners – including six UN agencies, 25 international and 10 national non-governmental organizations – are seeking funds through the end of the year to support up to 150,000 refugees, as arrivals continue.

At the start of 2022, Uganda was already hosting over 1.5 million refugees, making it one of the most important refugee host countries in the world and the largest on the African continent.

Uganda is also a global leader in promoting peaceful coexistence and refugee settlement among host communities. Refugees are provided with plots of land for housing and cultivation. Refugees and host communities access the same health facilities, and their children attend schools together.

Important gains in refugee self-reliance and economic inclusion are now at risk due to severe underfunding for UNHCR’s operations in the country.

By the end of August, UNHCR had received just 38 per cent of its 2022 funding requirement of US$343.4 million to respond to the needs of refugees in Uganda, as determined at the start of this year.

The funding gap has strained UNHCR’s capacity to provide critical support, including basic humanitarian assistance, child protection services, civil registration, and livelihood opportunities.

Refugees are seeing a sharp reduction in support for income-generating activities, including for agricultural inputs that are critical to cultivating allocated land.

Children, especially girls, face a high risk of dropping out of school as UNHCR will be unable to pay teachers’ salaries, and already crowded classrooms will increase in size. With no more funding to procure soap and hygiene kits for women and girls, their health and access to education will be negatively affected. UNHCR cannot afford to purchase new stocks of medicines for health centres, while progress in reducing child and maternal mortality will regress, and infant malnutrition will increase.

UNHCR and its partners need urgent financial contributions to meet the urgent needs of new refugee arrivals in Uganda, to upgrade the reception capacity and basic infrastructure of refugee settlements and prioritize the relocation of refugees to more suitable facilities.

Kisoro, in southwest Uganda, has received most new arrivals from the DRC. At the Nyakabande transit centre, refugees – overwhelmingly women and children – face substandard and crowded conditions which expose them to risks, including gender-based violence.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Kampala, Frank Walusimbi, walusim@unhcr.org, +256 772 701140
  • In Nairobi (regional), Tina Ghelli, ghelli@unhcr.org, +254 078 488 087
  • In Geneva, Boris Cheshirkov, cheshirk@unhcr.org, +41 79 433 76 82

Source: UNHCR