Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa and the third largest in the world, of which 61% are from South Sudan. The sheer number of refugees, many of whom arrived in 2017, has put Uganda’s progressive refugee policy under pressure.
The EU’s support is crucial to providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to refugees and host communities. Uganda is also vulnerable to natural hazards and epidemics. We are supporting Uganda’s efforts to better anticipate and respond to these events.
What are the needs?
Uganda currently hosts more than 1.5 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Uganda’s open and progressive refugee policy is currently under pressure due to the constant arrival of many refugees since 2017.
In 2021, the number of new registered refugees increased by 127,000, including new arrivals seeking refuge from neighbouring countries.
In 2022, 60,000 people arrived in Uganda between January and May. The constant increase and the consequences of COVID-19 are stretching available resources and donors’ funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic further aggravates the refugees’ situation, as they have lost opportunities to earn an income. The situation has become particularly critical in recent months, with food security deteriorating in all refugee settlements. Due to lack of funding, in April 2020, the World Food Programme reduced food rations by 30%.
The reduction increased to 40% in February 2021, and, since November 2021, to 60% in some settlements. As a result, refugees are increasingly adopting negative coping mechanisms (early marriage, child labour, and transactional sex).
Basic social services, such as health care, are also under pressure since COVID-19 started. Schools reopened in January 2022 but after almost 2 years of closure, 4.5 million children countrywide are expected to not return to school. Before the pandemic, dropout rates were already reaching 25% for primary school refugee children, and 86% for secondary school refugee children.
Uganda is also prone to disasters caused by natural hazards and epidemic outbreaks. Devastating floods struck the country in 2020 and affected nearly 800,000 people, of which 102,000 were displaced.
In 2021, almost 350,000 individuals were affected by floods, landslides, hailstorms and fires, and 24,000 were displaced. In the northeast Karamoja region, 41% of the population (518,000 people) are facing high levels of acute food insecurity due primarily to the poor rainfall.
How are we helping?
In 2022, the EU allocated €34 million in humanitarian aid to Uganda. Since 2017, the EU has supported humanitarian action in Uganda with more than €240 million in funding.
EU humanitarian funds help address the needs of more than 1.5 million refugees and host communities. It also focuses on:
- providing rapid and effective emergency assistance to recently arrived refugees
- improving access to basic services in refugee settlements.
EU funding strongly contributes to addressing basic immediate needs. We help provide (i) protection and multi-purpose cash transfers, (ii) access to improved primary healthcare, (iii) safe water and sanitation, and (iv) education to refugees and their host communities.
In April 2022, following new influx of refugees fleeing ongoing violence in Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the EU also mobilised €100,000 to assist the most vulnerable people. Additional funding was also provided in August 2022.
Uganda has high numbers of refugee and host community out-of-school children. EU humanitarian aid strongly contributes to ensuring access of overaged children, including adolescent mothers, to quality education services, enrolling them into accelerated education and protection programmes. Depending on their needs, children and adolescents receive tailor-made assistance based on their age, gender and abilities.
The EU supports Uganda’s preparedness and response to epidemics. With the spread of COVID-19, EU humanitarian partners have adapted their projects to the new challenges. They have created awareness of the virus and promoted health and hygiene measures to mitigate its transmission.
Building on the experience gained through the Ebola outbreak, partners have also supported adaptations to the local COVID-19 response of the authorities.
The EU also contributes to the reinforcement of local first responders’ capacities enabling the provision of a timely, effective, and local-driven anticipatory action and first emergency response in case of any disaster.
Following the torrential rains that caused devastating floods and landslides across the region last year, the EU mobilised €100,000 to respond to severe floods and landslide episodes reported in the West Nile and Eastern Uganda. This was added to the €350,000 allocated in 2020.
Beyond the provision of humanitarian aid, the EU helps to increase the resilience and autonomy of the most vulnerable people, reducing their dependency on aid in the long term. This is particularly relevant in the Ugandan context, where refugees can move freely, work, and start businesses.
For this reason, EU development aid in Uganda complements humanitarian aid in areas with a high refugee population. It addresses the longer-term needs of refugees and their host communities, such as vocational training for young people, and the reinforcement of livelihoods.
The European Commission is also providing €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in countries in Africa with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems. At least €14 million out of this funding will be supporting vaccination campaigns for the most vulnerable in Eastern Africa.
Last updated: 11/08/2022
Picture: South Sudanese refugees at Koluba transit centre. © European Union (photographer: Anouk Delafortrie)
Facts & figures
Hosts the largest refugee population in Africa.
Around 1.5 million refugees, including more than:
- 952,000 from South Sudan
- 440,000 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- 57,000 from Somalia
- 42,000 from Burundi
(UNHCR, April 2022)
EU humanitarian funding:
€34 million in 2022
More than €240 million since 2017