Regional emergencies push Uganda's refugee hosting to breaking point


Regional emergencies push Uganda's refugee hosting to breaking point

UNHCR, 21 Dec 2015

KAMPALA, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) – Three emergencies in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and South Sudan have push the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Uganda to astronomical levels, forcing the east African country to look up to donors for support.

Uganda is currently host to 510,973 refugees and asylum-seekers (as of Dec. 10), making it the third largest refugee hosting country in the region after Ethiopia and Kenya, and the eighth largest in the world, UN Refugee Agency figures show.

This is the biggest number of refugees and asylum seekers the country has hosted in its history. The main countries of origin for refugees and asylum seekers are Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

A new global report released on Friday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that the increasing number of people being forced to flee their homes around the world means 2015 is likely to exceed all previous records for global forced displacement.

The report 'UNHCR's Mid-Year Trends 2015' shows that in 2015 alone, more than 90,000 people have fled to Uganda to escape violence and human rights abuses in South Sudan, the DR Congo and Burundi.

"Never has there been a greater need for tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people who have lost everything," said Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees while speaking about the refugee situation globally.

Musa Ecweru, Uganda's minister of state for disaster preparedness and refugees said the country needs all the support from international community as it grapples with the biggest number of refugees it has hosted.

"At a time when our country is hosting more refugees than ever before, it is vital that our international partners work with us to ensure support is provided to our neighbors in need," he said.

Responding to the humanitarian appeal made by Uganda and relief agencies, Britain announced this week that it has provided a total of 17.6 million U.S. dollars in support of the refugee response this year.

The funding has been used to provide life-saving assistance in the form of food, shelter, immunizations and medical care, clean water and sanitary facilities. Schools, transit centers and community facilities have been also constructed.

Uganda is widely recognized as having progressive and forward-thinking refugee and asylum policies. Upon receiving refugee status, refugees are settled in villages integrated within local host communities.

"Uganda is pioneering a model of refugee protection that serves as an inspiration for other countries to follow, not only in the region, but across the globe," said Neimah Warsame, UNHCR Representative to Uganda.

While on a regional tour this week, James Duddridge, British minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told reporters that the problem of refugees needs to be addressed at the source. He said the root causes of the refugee crisis must be addressed.

Duddridge was in the region on a tour that took him to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to help find a solution that will end the Burundi crisis that has left scores dead and thousands fleeing the East African country since April this year.