Donors ask Ugandan government to spread refugee settlements

Donors ask Ugandan government to spread refugee settlements
Dzaipi transit centre in northern Uganda, where UNHCR has erected tents for many of the refugees. Courtesy Photo/ UNHCR/F.Noy.

Development partners are advising Uganda to spread refugee settlement to various parts of the country in order to decongest border districts that are already constrained.

Danish Ambassador to Uganda Mogens Pedersen notes that although the Ugandan model on refugees is unique, the huge numbers in camps create conflicts and tension in fragile post conflict environments.

Uganda is home to 1.3 million refugee’s majority of them from South Sudan where four years of violence have displaced more than 1 million people. Most of the refugees are hosted in the districts of Adjumani, Moyo, Koboko, Arua, Kiryandongo, Isingiro and Kyegegwa.

But Pedersen observes that the concentration of huge refugee populations among a few districts is taxing to the host communities.

The country was chosen as a role model for pioneering a comprehensive approach to refugee protection that complements humanitarian responses with targeted development action, benefiting both refugees and the communities hosting them. He proposes that government devises means of distributing them to neighboring districts.

The suggestion comes days before the United Nations solidarity summit on refugees to be held on June 22 in Kampala. The Summit, to convene more than 500 people, will generate ideas, solutions and support to the increasing influx of refugees in Uganda and the region.

Uganda’s approach to dealing with refugees has long been among the most progressive on the African continent, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Each refugee in Uganda is entitled to a 50 by 50 plot of land for cultivation and settlement, materials for construction of a shelter and daily food rations for a period of at least one year. They are also integrated to access health care and education with the community they live in. They have a right to work and do business but also have freedom of movement.

But Kristian Schmidt, the head of Delegation of the European Union says Uganda needs to encourage refugees to take part in other livelihood activities besides farming.

Peter West, the British High Commissioner to Uganda says that although the world is keen on helping refugees, there should be more effort curbing the cause of the conflicts. He observes that so many refugees could still come into Uganda if the triggers of the conflict in South Sudan are not addressed.

Ugandan Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda says that Uganda cannot close its doors to South Sudan refugees but is optimistic that these will be able to return home when normalcy returns.