by Ronald Ssekandi
and Samuel Egadu KAMPALA Xinhua --
Uganda has started to feel the pinch of hosting an influx of
refugees amid acute funding pressures and says international
support is urgently needed to help it accommodate the refugees.
Uganda is host to over one million refugees, half of them from
neighboring South Sudan where fighting is still continuing. On
average 4,000 South Sudanese are said to cross the border daily
The east African country has gained global acknowledgment for
its open refugee policy at a time when more and more countries
are closing their doors to refugees who are fleeing for their
The other refugees hosted in different parts of the country
are mainly from neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Rwanda, Burundi while some are from Eritrea and Ethiopia.
At the African Union Summit in Ethiopia late last month,
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met with the UN Secretary
General Antonio Guterres and they agreed to hold conference on
the refugee situation next month.
Museveni, according to a State House statement, told the UN
Chief that the refugee situation was a posing a growing
challenge to the country each day.
On Tuesday, Uganda and the UN refugee agency re-echoed that
appeal for international assistance, saying the refugee burden
was heavy for the country to carry alone.
"It’s getting a little heavy for us to manage the refugee
"We are constrained and overwhelmed with the numbers,"
Hillary Onek, Uganda’s minister for relief, disaster
preparedness and refugees, told reporters.
"We have budgetary constraints for hosting, providing food,
shelter, water, sanitation, health services, school for children
and physiological support to the refugees," Onek added.
Ajit Fernando, deputy country representative for the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) here said the
refugee agency is facing acute funding shortages.
"We are chronically facing underfunding to handle the refuge
"The magnitude is increasing daily.
"We are asking more donors and countries to be part of this
"We need more support," he said.
The refugee agency and Uganda are appealing for over one
billion U.S. dollars to help address the refugee crisis.
However since they launched the appeal last year, they have
only been able to raise only 36 percent of the money.
The UN World Food Program last year warned that it was going
to be forced to cut food aid to refugees in the country further
than the current 50 percent due to severe funding shortages.
Uganda, whose refugee resettlement process is said to be a
model for other nations, now hosts one of the largest number of
refugees in Africa, putting a significant burden on relief
agencies, Ugandan authorities and local populations.
The country argues that there is urgent need by regional
leaders and the international community to seek political
settlement in South Sudan, which is the biggest generator of
"We hope peace will return to South Sudan.
"We need the Gambia model [regional military intervention]
for those mismanaging their country and causing problems.
"The world must come and act.
"It’s a disgrace to the region," said Onek.
The regional leaders under the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS) decided to deploy troops from its member
states to Gambia following the refusal by former President Yahya
Jammeh to leave office after his defeat in the December
elections. Jammeh finally bowed to pressure and left office for
the new leader Adama Barrow.
The violence that broke out again in South Sudan in July last
year between the troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and former
Vice President Riek Machar has captured the world’s attention,
with refugee numbers crossing the 1.5 million mark, UNHCR