Countries fail to honour Uganda refugee funds pledges

Saturday August 10 2019

A refugee from the DR Congo poses during an interview at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Kyangwali, western Uganda, on December 10, 2018. The country still receives a daily average of 140 new arrivals mainly from South Sudan and the DRC. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP


The failure by the international community to honour financial pledges made to Uganda during a Solidarity Summit on Refugees is hindering the country’s ability to look after them, authorities have said. There are at least 1.5 million refugees in Uganda, the majority from South Sudan.

President Yoweri Museveni together with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres hosted the Solidarity Summit in Kampala in June 2017 to help raise money to support the high number of refugees that the country was receiving from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

The conference aimed to raise at least $2 billion but only managed to get $358 million pledged by the European Union, United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Kenya, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Netherlands, and Somalia.

Other countries that made pledges were Germany, Australia, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, the African Union, Equatorial Guinea, China, the UK and Japan.

Uganda’s call for help however comes at a time when some countries like Germany, the UK and Japan have withheld direct funding towards Uganda’s refugee programme because of the government’s failure to respond to a corruption scandal in February last year, in which refugee numbers were inflated by over 300,000.

Speaker of the Ugandan parliament Rebecca Kadaga, while addressing the 10th Conference of Speakers of African Parliaments and Senates at the Pan-African Parliament in South Africa on Tuesday, said that the country has only realised $540,000, out of the total pledges of $358 million made during the summit.


Funding gaps

The Office of the Prime Minister, which handles refugee affairs, said that they are experiencing funding gaps in health, education, water and security in refugee settlements and host communities.

There are also fears that the continued strain on the country’s resources will breed conflict between host communities and the refugees.

“Settling of refugees comes at a cost to our people because there is a lot of pressure on the local population to share facilities. In the district of Adjumani, 50 per cent of the population is made up of refugees and so there is pressure on water, schools, health facilities and the environment. This is costly to the Ugandan government,” Ms Kadaga said.

Last month, Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees State Minister Musa Ecweru led a Ugandan delegation to Europe to “remind them about the pledges” although he declined to give details of the visits.

Uganda hosts about 1.25 million refugees and asylum seekers, the majority of whom are from South Sudan.

The country has a projected budget of $1.03 billion for its refugee emergency plan for this year, but only $200 million is available, according to Mr Ecweru.

The emergency plan provides for protection of refugees, education, shelter, health and nutrition, as well as environment and energy.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson in Uganda Duniya Khan said the country still receives a daily average of 140 new arrivals mainly from South Sudan and the DRC.