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Uganda: Donors pledge millions for refugees

June 23, 2017

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday appealed to the international community to assist Uganda in dealing with a surging refugee influx from South Sudan. Donor pledges have fallen way below the target.

UN chief Antonio Guterres and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Image: Reuters/J. Akena

At a fundraising summit held in Entebbe, Uganda, the UN secretary-general commended Uganda's open-door refugee policy, which he called "exemplary." He said Uganda stood out from many nations who are turning their backs on those who need help.

Uganda is hosting nearly one million refugees who have fled fighting in South Sudan. Guterres has referred to the South Sudan refugee crisis as the biggest exodus of refugees since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The UN and Uganda were hoping to raise at least $2 billion (1.8 billion euros) to deal with the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis. However, donors have pledged $352 million. Authorities have said the refugees and host communities are close to the breaking point. David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, warned that without assistance, food for the refugees will run out by July.

Uganda's open-door policy praised

Guterres said that South Sudanese refugees in Uganda lived in settlements and not camps, thereby preserving the dignity of those displaced. "They are allowed to farm the land, allowed to build the same schools, the same hospitals, the same health centers, to get jobs, to have a noble life," the UN chief said.

South Sudan refugees alight from a truck
Nearly 2,000 refugees from South Sudan arrive in Uganda each dayImage: UNHCR/I. Kasamani

He said it was important for the international community to acknowledge Uganda's exemplary refugee policy. "Faced with the largest refugee inflow, Uganda remains a symbol of the integrity of the refugee protection regime that unfortunately is not being respected everywhere in the world."

The UN chief said international solidarity with the East African nation was a matter of justice not generosity. European nations pledged 125 million euros on Friday; the EU said it will give 85 million euros. In the next four years, Uganda needs $8 billion to cope with the extra burden of caring for the refugees.

In December 2013, South Sudan plunged into a civil war after President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of attempting to overthrow him. Violence has plagued the world's youngest nation despite a peace deal brokered by regional leaders in August 2015.

Christo Stylianides, the EU's commissioner for humanitarian aid, said the ongoing conflict is worsening the situation. "The lives of many South Sudanese hang in the balance, threatened by brutal violence, famine and hardship," Stylianides said. "Peace in South Sudan is out of reach, unfortunately. There can be no military solution."

(cm) AFP/AP/Reuters