Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa. Around 62% of the refugees in the country are from South Sudan. The sheer number of refugee arrivals since 2017 has put Uganda’s progressive refugee policy under pressure. The European Union provides life-saving humanitarian assistance to refugees. In addition, the EU supports Uganda’s preparedness and response to natural disasters and epidemics.
Uganda hosts more than 1.4 million refugees, most of them fleeing conflict in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There are also refugees from Burundi and Somalia, amongst others. In 2020, more than 18,000 refugees arrived in Uganda from the DRC, South Sudan, and Burundi. While Uganda has an open refugee policy, the arrival of so many refugees since 2017 has created great humanitarian needs (food, water supply and sanitation, protection, etc.) and required the increased provision of basic services (health and education) for refugees and host communities in areas where they are settled. To host refugees, new settlements have been created and existing ones expanded. However, needs still overwhelm national resources and land to host new arrivals is becoming scarce. While refugees in Uganda are free to move and work, job opportunities and farmland for refugees are extremely limited.
Basic social services are also under pressure. Health facilities in refugee hosting areas need support to meet the demand. Schools are overcrowded, resulting in a high dropout rate. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 25% of primary school children and 86% of secondary school students currently remain out of school.
Refugees also need protection services, including help and psychosocial support for unaccompanied minors, disabled people, trauma survivors and victims of gender-based violence.
The coronavirus pandemic, which reached Uganda in March 2020, aggravates the humanitarian crisis already present and affects particularly vulnerable people, including refugees.
Climate-induced weather conditions saw various parts of Uganda experience floods and landslides during the heavy first rainy season. This year’s Horn of Africa locust invasion places the food security of the population in Karamoja at additional risk, an area already hit by drought in 2019.
Since 2017, the European Union has supported humanitarian action in Uganda with more than €137 million in funding.
The EU provides humanitarian funds to help address the needs of more than 1.4 million refugees who have settled in Uganda. Since 2017, EU humanitarian aid has focused on providing rapid and effective emergency assistance to recently arrived refugees. EU funding helps humanitarian organisations to provide protection, shelter, food assistance, healthcare, access to safe water and sanitation services, and education assistance to refugees and their host communities.
With high numbers of out-of-school refugee children, EU humanitarian aid also contributes to providing accelerated learning programmes and protection for refugee children as well as children from local communities.
With the spread of coronavirus, the EU’s partner organisations in Uganda are still providing humanitarian aid while adapting their projects to the new challenges – creating awareness of the virus, and promoting health and hygiene measures. In addition, building on the experience gained through Ebola prevention and preparedness, EU-funded health projects have broadened and adapted to support the local coronavirus response.
As well as providing humanitarian aid, the EU works towards increasing the resilience and autonomy of the most vulnerable people to reduce their dependency on aid in the long-term. This is particularly relevant in the Ugandan context, where refugees are able to move freely, work, and start businesses. For this reason, EU development aid in Uganda complements humanitarian aid in areas with a high refugee population, by addressing the longer-term needs of refugees and their host communities, such as vocational training for young people.
The EU also provides emergency relief funding to help people in Uganda affected by natural disasters. Following the recent torrential rains that caused devastating floods and landslides across the region, the EU mobilised €250,000 in emergency humanitarian assistance to respond to immediate needs in Uganda.
The EU’s humanitarian support in Uganda is complemented and reinforced by EU development aid.