Monday, July 06, 2020

Uganda and its Refugees

Uganda has lived up to its reputation as Africa's most hospitable nation by opening its border to 1,500 people fleeing militias. 

"Uganda is an exemplary country. Other countries in the world can learn a lot of Uganda's generous and open door refugee policy," said Duniya Aslam Khan, Uganda's UNHCR spokeswoman.

But the coronavirus lockdown means many more fleeing conflict have been locked out.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) oversaw the transfer of the asylum seekers from the DR Congo via the Guladjo and Mount Zeu crossings in Uganda's Zombo district. Most of the 1,500 people seeking asylum are women, children and the elderly. They are among the first of the estimated 10,000 people who fled in the direction of Uganda but became stranded at the border in May.
In mid-June, President Yoweri Museveni directed his ministers to reopen the border crossings and take them all in. The East African country had suspended the intake of refugees in March as a measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  The pandemic and the restrictions on the movement of people in recent months has collided with other crises around Africa — drought, floods, locust plagues, poverty and other diseases, such as malaria and measles.
Uganda has redirected some of its resources to fight COVID-19, but there's not much more this country can do for refugees due to its limited means. The country already hosts 1.4 million refugees, mostly from the DRC, South Sudan and Burundi. The UNHCR funding requirement for 2020 was 357 million Euros, however only 18% of that amount has been raised.
"Now that we are faced with the global COVID-19 crisis, which has forced us to redirect our resources to respond to the health needs of not only refugees, but their local hosts. We are really running short of money."
In Uganda, COVID-19 has put a lot of strain on the available resources — which had already been dwindling, according to UNHCR spokeswoman Kahn.
"I think for Uganda, a country with 40 million of its own people and poverty levels pretty high, aid should not be taken for granted. And if the world community wants to see Uganda continue this responsibility, more global solidarity in terms of financial support is required."
 If we look at East Africa and the Horn and the Great Lakes, in total we now have 4.6 million refugees and 8.1 million internally displaced people.

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