Close to 80,000 refugees currently reside in Kampala, Uganda, the majority of whom have fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The remainder have come mostly from Burundi, Rwanda, Eritrea, Somalia, and South Sudan. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its implementing and operational partners are working to meet the needs of this refugee population through a variety of intersecting programs and services. Some of those have been created specifically for refugees; others seek to integrate refugees into pre-existing programs and services that traditionally serve Ugandans.
In 2014, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) began an international project examining gender-based violence (GBV) against refugees in urban settings. The project pays particular attention to community-based protection mechanisms, such as peer support networks, as well as linkages between refugee communities and local institutions with potential to enhance refugees’ protection. Given the diversity of refugees’ experiences and vulnerabilities in urban environments, the project takes a particular look at the GBV risks facing different subgroups of refugees and the risk mitigation strategies they prioritize for themselves. The objective is to learn how humanitarian actors can better support those strategies and strengthen refugees’ protection environment overall.
In August 2015, WRC and the Refugee Law Project (RLP) conducted field research in Kampala. In line with project goals, the assessment was targeted to learn about the GBV risks facing urban refugees in that setting, as well as the services they are seeking and what challenges they face in securing access. WRC also met with a broad range of service providers and stakeholders, including humanitarian actors such as UNHCR’s implementing and operational partners, as well as civil society groups not traditionally focused on refugees. Conversations centered on urban refugees’ access to programs, services, and peer support networks, with particular reference to those which usually cater mainly to Ugandans, but which nonetheless have expertise relevant to a particular refugee community. This summary describes key findings and proposed recommendations arising from the field visit.