refugees

World refugees day 2023 calls for ‘inclusion and hope’ amid ongoing conflicts and displacement

(Last Updated On: 19 July 2023)

By K. Vincent

Lamwo I It is frightening that the world is witnessing ongoing or resurfacing conflicts that continue to force people to flee their homes in search of safety.

In the East and Horn of Africa and the greater Lakes region where Uganda is situated, there is ongoing fighting in Sudan. The Uganda government cannot forget the prolonged unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and also the unrest in Somalia.

In South Sudan, the situation is volatile – the fragile security and harsh climate conditions continue to bring new arrivals into Uganda and other neighbouring countries.

Worldwide, there are over 100 million displaced people with 35.3 million of them being refugees. Uganda is hosting 1.53m forcefully displaced people with South Sudanese constituting the largest numbers at 56 per cent.

During the celebration of World Refugee Day on June 20, 2023, Uganda like any other country around the world, observed world refugee day 2023 with calls for inclusion and hope amid ongoing conflicts and displacement.

This 2023 World refugee day was commemorated under the theme: “Hope Away from Home – A World where Refugees are Included.”

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Some of the children (refugees) attended World Refugees Day last month.

The UNHCR Country Representative Matthew Crentsil, revealed that hope for refugees is more than a mere wish adding that it is grounded in tangible actions aimed at empowering refugees to regain control over their daily lives.

Crentsil said the government of Uganda, UNHCR, UNFPA, CARE, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Save the Children, Marie Stopes Uganda and all partners involved in the Uganda-country refugee response came together with the global community to emphasize the shared responsibility they bear in nurturing hope for refugees and asylum seekers during their displacement.

“It is our collective responsibility and duty to ensure that both Uganda and the world at large become inclusive environments for forcibly displaced individuals.

“Inclusiveness signifies that regardless of the duration of their stay in exile, refugees yearn to continue their life pursuing education, supporting their families and fostering connections with hosting communities,” he adds.

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hilary Onek who was also the Guest of Honor for world refugees days 2023, said world refugees days is a significant occasion, not only for celebrating the resilience of refugees who persistently flee conflicts and persecution in their countries, but it is a time to honour their strength and recognize progressive refugees approaches, ensuring their safety and fostering a supportive environment.

Onek who is also the Palabek County Member of Parliament stated that “by addressing the root causes of these conflicts and striving to create conditions for their eventual return home, the government of Uganda and all development partners can truly transform lives and build a more compassionate world for refugees and hosting communities”.

Upcoming program

Uganda along with France, Niger, Colombia; Jordan, and Japan, will co-convince the global refugees forum in December 2023. This forum is going to be the largest international event dedicated to addressing refugee issues.

Every four years, government and private organizations gather to exchange successful approaches and provide financial aid, technical knowledge and policy reforms to advance the objectives of the global impact on refugees (GCR) which were endorsed by the UN general assembly in 2018.

“This is an excellent opportunity to assess our achievements in the refugee response, as well as identify areas of need and challenges where we require additional support,” said Matthew Crentsil.

“The global Refugee forum will serve as a forum for governments to engage in knowledge sharing and facilitate further discussions on the commitments needed to ensure greater sustainability in the refugee response.”

In February 2023, Uganda initiated the road map to the forum and various activities such as round table discussions have been conducted to assess the refugee situation, preparing the country for the upcoming event.

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The Uganda refugee response continues to face persistent challenges stemming from inadequate funding. Sectors crucial to the well-being of refugees, including health, education, livelihood, environments and Food and Nutrition are significantly impacted by the funding shortfall.

Marcus Prior, WFP Uganda deputy country director said over the past three years, the food ration has been gradually decreasing due to reduced donor funding which has posed significant challenges for refugees. Marcus Prior says these changes, though difficult for refugees, are necessary to ensure the available resources are effectively utilized.

Additionally, other planned changes to food assistance are starting in July 2023, where new rations of food assistance will be provided by world food programs to different households based on their vulnerability.

“In the face of limited resources, it is important that we continue to work with the Uganda government to ensure that the response is inclusive and addresses the needs of the most vulnerable such as new arrivals, the disabled and the elderly.” Marcus Prior, WFP Uganda deputy country director said. “This world refugee day, the world food program is committed to deepening investments in both emerging support and long-term resilience projects that enable refugees to survive and thrive.”

Solutions

UNFPA and implementing partners notably CARE, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Save the Children, and Marie Stopes Uganda, among others are focused on responding to acute needs and empowering women, girls and young people in refugee-hosting and flood-affected districts.

Currently, UNFPA are providing services such as maternal health care, family planning, HIV/STI services and GBV case management.

Across the country, UNFPA’s presence in several refugee hosting districts, notably Adjumani, Madi Okollo, Terego, Lamwo, Kamwenge, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kyegegwa, Obongi, Rwamwanja, Yumbe, Isingiro districts.

The government of Uganda, through the office of the prime minister, OPM will continue to allocate land to each new refugee arrival (family) in the settlement for cultivating crops to supplement their monthly food ration distributed by WFP.

The imperative action to prioritize is the pursuit of lasting solutions for the refugee crisis. The global community continues to face a shortage of sustainable long-term measures, leaving millions of forcibly displaced individuals in a state of uncertainty.

Background

In December 2013, following a political struggle between Kiir and Machar that led to Machar’s removal as vice president, violence erupted between presidential guard soldiers from the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan.

Soldiers from the Dinka ethnic group aligned with Kiir and those from the Nuer ethnic group supported Machar. Amid chaos, Kiir announced that Machar had attempted a coup and violence spread quickly to Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity states.

From the outbreak of conflict, armed groups targeted civilians along ethnic lines, committed rape and sexual violence, destroyed property and looted villages, and recruited children into their ranks.

In 2017 and 2018, a series of cease-fires were negotiated and subsequently violated between the two sides and other factions that forced over 75,000 people mostly children and women to come and settle in Lamwo district in Northern Uganda over fear of losing their lives.

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