Kampala (IP) – A UN representative for refugees has called on the international community to show the same solidarity they have shown Ukraine in order to alleviate the suffering of refugees.

Iran PressAfrica: The UN Refugee Agency's representative to Uganda, Matthew Crentsil, has stated that funding for refugees in the country has decreased, with only 13% of the required amount received so far. As of the first quarter of 2023, out of the total USD 846 million required, only USD 113 million has been received, leaving a gap of USD 732 million.

Uganda, which hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, is currently struggling with a surge of displacement from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Speaking at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa High-Level Ministerial Conference on Durable Solutions for Refugees in Kampala, Hilary Obolaker Onek, Uganda's Minister for Refugees, stated that countries generating large numbers of refugees should contribute to easing this problem. He added that African countries should not wait for international partners to provide support but should tackle issues and come up with solutions themselves.

In an exclusive interview with Iran Press, Carol Sparks, Head of External Engagements at UNHCR, stated that resource constraints and increasing displacement figures pose major challenges. UNHCR continues to be concerned about new arrivals of refugees.

With about 1.5 million refugees in Uganda and an additional 30,000 from South Sudan and DRC arriving this year alone, there is incredible pressure on partners and the Ugandan government, Sparks added. 

Despite the enormity of the displacement challenge, Uganda maintains an open-door policy towards refugees, according to Sarah Sparks, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Uganda follows an open-door policy that protects people fleeing conflict and persecution," Sparks said.

"Refugees in Uganda are included in society to an extent that exceeds many countries worldwide. Uganda offers refugees freedom of movement, the right to work, own property, and access to national services such as health and education." However, Sparks also acknowledged that there is pressure on resources and funding.

"There is not enough money to go around," she said, stressing: "We are working hard with humanitarian partners to ensure that we have a joint approach to support the government here in Uganda."

Peter Gift, the refugee welfare chairperson from Rhino Camp refugee settlement, echoed Sparks' concerns about resource constraints. He urged the international community to show solidarity with refugees in Uganda and facilitate their safe repatriation.

"As refugees in Uganda, we face many challenges," Gift said, adding: "Our livelihoods are challenging because we share resources with host communities. We don't have access to land for agriculture even though agriculture is the main backbone of all communities within this region."

Additionally, Gift noted that service delivery in refugee settlements is inadequate due to funding cuts.

Overall, while Uganda's open-door policy towards refugees is commendable, it is clear that more support is needed from the international community to ensure that refugees can rebuild their lives safely and sustainably.

Funding cuts have had a significant impact on various areas, including Ukraine and other conflicts. This has created challenges in accessing adequate medical support and education, as well as environmental degradation. While we acknowledge our contribution to this destruction, the lack of rainfall has made it even more difficult to cope. We are calling for a return home, but instability in the country, such as in South Sudan where implementation of a peace agreement remains a challenge, is preventing us from doing so. We urge our partners, international communities, donors, IGAD, and EAC to prioritize efforts toward implementing security agreements in the communities we come from so that we can safely return home through self-repatriation. "It's time for action," said Peter Gift to Iran Press.


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