Kampala, Uganda – The European Union-EU in Uganda has reaffirmed it’s support towards provision of life-saving humanitarian assistance to refugees and host communities, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
In commemoration of the World Refugee Day, Anna Merrifield, the Chargé d’Affaires of the the EU in Uganda, says the day is not only meant to honour the strength and resilience of refugees but also to encourage public awareness and support of the refugees.
“As we join the rest of the world to commemorate World Refugee Day, we reaffirm our commitment to continue to work with the Government of Uganda to strengthen resilience among vulnerable refugees and host communities and improve their peaceful cohabitation,” said Anna Merrifield.
According to the Merrifield, in the year 2021, the EU has so far provided EUR 34.8 million (UGX 151 billion) of humanitarian assistance to Uganda, out of which EUR 2.8 million (UGX 12 billion) was in support of the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, of which 62% are from South Sudan.
“Giving refugees the right to land, movement and work, Uganda has an open and progressive refugee policy that is inspiring other countries in the world,” a statement from the EU read.
According to the EU, even if borders are closed to asylum since March 2020, as a prevention measure to COVID-19, Uganda has temporarily opened its borders to neighbours fleeing conflict.
However, the situation has become particularly critical in recent months, with food security deteriorating in all refugee settlements.
“Basic social services, such as health care and education, are also coming under increased pressure since the start of COVID-19, as protection needs are skyrocketing. Women, girls, and people with disabilities are disproportionately affected,” the statement read.
The EU further notes that the impact is especially hard on children with the closure of schools, leading to significant increase in school dropout rates, child labour, and early teenage pregnancies.
And with the spread of COVID-19, the EU says it is imperative that all development partners work together with the Government of Uganda to meet the basic needs of refugees as a first step to prevent violence, while considering options to safely re-open schools.
“In response to the spread of COVID-19, our partners have swiftly adapted their projects, creating awareness of the virus and promoting health and hygiene measures to mitigate its spread,” said Isabelle D’Haudt, Head of EU Humanitarian Aid Operations in Uganda.
This, she said allowed health centers to remain functional with community workers at the front of the awareness.
According to Isabelle, the adaptations also included innovations, such as the expansion of contactless modalities via mobile money, which are seen as an improvement for refugees thanks to the double impact.