Uganda may be the third largest sanctuary in Africa for continental refugees, but it ranks at the top in terms of hospitality and opportunity for people fleeing war, drought, famine, disease and persecution, according to a new study by the World Bank.
In “Forced Displacement and Mixed Migration in the Horn of Africa,” the Bank found that Uganda’s “progressive” refugee policy is one of the world’s most generous because it not only provides shelter, healthcare and education for more than half a million refugees, but allows them to assimilate into the native population and pursue productive interests, like starting their own businesses.
“This has enabled many of them to contribute to the local economy,” a World Bank writer said of the policy.
Refugee settlements in nine districts throughout Uganda now serve men, women and children from 13 countries. Many have been able to move out of settlement camps, get jobs or start businesses, and live independently. Some have returned to their home countries.
But in the last two months, more than 70,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in Uganda in the wake of violence that erupted in Juba in early July. Nearly two-thirds of the new arrivals are children. In some districts, the number of refugees is beginning to rival the number of native Ugandans.
That development has presented a conundrum for a country that is famous for, and proud of, its welcoming nature, yet grappling with increasing demands for goods and services from its homegrown population.
Officials have appealed to the international community for assistance in accommodating the influx of refugees. In May, the World Bank approved $175 million in support for Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti in hosting displaced people.
Authorities say the new Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) will lessen the burden on the Uganda while allowing it to maintain its reputation for generosity and compassion for the dispossessed.