European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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South Sudanese refugees at Koluba transit centre. ©EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie
South Sudanese refugees at Koluba transit centre. ©EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, of which 62% are from South Sudan. The sheer number of refugees, many of whom arrived in 2017, has put Uganda’s progressive refugee policy under pressure. The support of the European Union is crucial to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to refugees and host communities. Uganda is also vulnerable to natural hazards and epidemics. The EU is supporting Uganda’s efforts to better anticipate and respond to these events.

What are the needs?

Uganda currently hosts more than 1.4 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Uganda’s open and progressive refugee policy is currently under pressure due to the arrival of so many refugees since 2017. It is becoming increasingly difficult to provide land and basic services such as food, water, health and education to the newly arrived. Needs are overwhelming available resources and donor funding.

The coronavirus pandemic further aggravates the refugees’ situation. They have lost livelihood opportunities, especially women. The situation has become particularly critical in recent months, with food security deteriorating in all refugee settlements. As a result, negative coping mechanisms are increasing, with early marriage, child labour and transactional sex instances on the rise.

Basic social services, such as health care, are also coming under increased pressure since the start of COVID-19. Schools have been closed since April 2020, which has resulted in an increased likelihood of children’s dropouts. Dropout rates are already reaching 25% where primary school refugee children are concerned, and 86% for refugee children in secondary school.

Uganda is also prone to natural hazards and epidemic outbreaks. Devastating floods struck the country in 2020 and affected nearly 800,000 people, of which 102,000 were displaced from their homes. COVID-19 has exacerbated the already precarious situation of these populations.

How are we helping?

Since 2017, the EU supported humanitarian action in Uganda with more than €200 million in funding. In 2021, the EU allocated €33.8 million in humanitarian assistance to Uganda, including €1.8 million in support of the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

EU humanitarian funds help address the needs of more than 1.4 million refugees and host communities. It also focuses on:

  • providing rapid and effective emergency assistance to recently arrived refugees
  • improving access to basic services in refugee settlements.

EU funding supports humanitarian organisations to provide protection, shelter and multi-purpose cash assistance to address basic food and non-food immediate needs, primary healthcare, access to safe water and sanitation services, and education in emergencies assistance to refugees and their host communities.

With high numbers of out-of-school refugee and host community children, EU humanitarian aid also contributes to providing accelerated education programmes and protection for refugee and host community children. Depending on their needs, children and adolescents received tailor-made assistance based on their age, gender and abilities.

The EU supports Uganda’s preparedness and response to epidemics. With the spread of COVID-19, EU humanitarian partners have adapted their projects to the new challenges by creating awareness of the virus and promoting health and hygiene measures to mitigate its transmission. Building on the experience gained through the Ebola outbreak, partners have also supported adaptations to the local coronavirus response of the authorities.

The EU also provides emergency relief funding to help people in Uganda affected by natural hazards and to enhance the local capacity to anticipate and prepare for disasters. Following the torrential rains that caused devastating floods and landslides across the region last year, the EU mobilised €350,000 in emergency humanitarian assistance to respond to immediate needs in Uganda.

Beyond the provision of humanitarian aid, the EU helps to increase the resilience and autonomy of the most vulnerable people, reducing their dependency on aid in the long-term. This is particularly relevant in the Ugandan context, where refugees can 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.

In addition, the European Commission is providing €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in countries in Africa with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems. At least €14 million out of this funding will be supporting vaccination campaigns for the most vulnerable in Eastern Africa.

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