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.
What are the needs?
Uganda hosts more than 1.38 million refugees, including considerable numbers from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Somalia, amongst others. In 2019 alone, more than 94,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda from the DRC, South Sudan, and Burundi. While Uganda has an open refugee policy, the arrival of so many refugees within such a short time since 2017 has created significant gaps in the provision of humanitarian; it also places a strain on food resources. New settlements have been created and existing ones expanded to accommodate new arrivals. However, in many locations, needs still outstrip available assistance. 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 overstretched. Health facilities in refugee hosting areas need support to keep up with the demand. Schools are overcrowded, resulting in a high drop-out rate. At the same time, 25% of primary school children and 86% of secondary school students remain out-of-school (UNHCR). Refugees also need protection services, including help and psychosocial support for unaccompanied minors, disabled people, trauma survivors and victims of gender-based violence.
Given the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC and the high level of population movement between the 2 countries, Uganda continues to be on high alert for any potential spillover of the epidemic.
Climate-induced weather conditions saw different parts of Uganda experience either droughts or floods and landslides, the latter especially towards the end 2019. As a result of the heavy rainfall that battered eastern Uganda, and the subsequent floods and landslides, more than 65,000 people had to evacuate their homes.
How are we helping?
Since 2017, the EU has supported humanitarian action in Uganda with a total of €136.7 million in funding, €33 million of which were allocated in 2019.
The EU provides humanitarian funds to help address the needs of more than 1 million refugees who have settled in Uganda. Since 2017, EU humanitarian aid has focused on providing rapid and effective emergency assistance to newly arrived refugees, especially to those arriving from South Sudan and the DRC. 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 contributes to providing accelerated learning programmes and protection for refugee children and children from local communities.
In addition to providing humanitarian aid, the EU works towards increasing the resilience and self-sufficiency 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 work in Uganda complements humanitarian aid in areas with a high refugee population, by addressing longer-term needs of refugees and their host communities, such as through vocational training for young people.
Since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in neighbouring DRC and given Uganda’s proximity to the affected areas, the EU has provided humanitarian funding to help with Ebola preparedness, and monitoring and response (when needed) in Uganda. Such measures help the early detection of cases and the prevention of the disease’s transmission.
The EU has also provided emergency relief funding to help people in Uganda hit by natural disasters. In 2019, the EU provided humanitarian funding to help drought-hit communities in Karamoja, as well as to support those affected by landslides and floods in eastern Uganda.