The Danish government has donated $1.5 million (more than Shs 5.3 billion) to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees in Uganda in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Home to over 1.4 million refugees, Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and serves as a role model globally in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees – a blueprint that calls for greater support for refugees and the countries that welcome them.
However, resources for the refugee response have been insufficient to address the increasing needs of a growing population. The outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 and the measures to contain its spread posed additional challenges, forcing UNHCR to redirect towards the COVID-19 response funding that had initially been programmed for other life-saving activities.
“Denmark is a strong supporter of UNHCR globally and of its crucial role here in Uganda. I am very pleased that we have been able to provide additional support to enable UNHCR’s Uganda operation to respond better to the worrying situation in the settlements. I am also pleased that our Northern Uganda agriculture program, NURI has been able to show how development actors can contribute to the refugee response in a new and flexible way. Having NURI staff assist UNHCR and WFP in their lifesaving work really makes me proud” stated Nicolaj Hejberg Petersen, Danish Ambassador to Uganda.
The contributions from Denmark’s flexible Emergency Reserve Fund will enable UNHCR to strengthen its humanitarian and protection efforts, working on the frontline to deliver critical services and raise awareness on COVID-19 risks and mitigation measures among the refugee and host communities. The funding also offers crucial support to deliver critical services in the areas of health care, child protection and support to victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
“We cannot thank Denmark enough for a timely contribution that will help us fill some critical gaps in our response to refugees,” said Mahoua Parums, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Uganda. “We also appreciate the decision to grant UNHCR flexible funding, entrusting us with the responsibility to allocate these resources where they matter the most.”
Denmark’s latest donation adds to $9.5 million provided to UNHCR earlier this year to support South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda’s settlements. In addition to providing direct funding to UNHCR, Denmark is a major donor to the Uganda Refugee Response Plan (RRP) and a key player in pursuing the development of refugee communities and their hosts.
Under the Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative (NURI), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) is implementing interventions to strengthen the capacity of refugee and host communities to absorb and respond to shocks including those brought by climate change.
NURI is based on experience from agriculture extension work in Northern Uganda across two decades and has in its current iteration been adapted to support the rollout of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Uganda by providing development assistance that helps bridge the humanitarian-development nexus.
In the context of COVID-19, NURI has showcased how a development program can adapt to a changing humanitarian situation and direct available resources to assist in crucial humanitarian interventions.
NURI teams are assisting UNHCR in the distribution of seeds to refugees, having earlier supported in the distribution of 15,280 kg of maize seeds and 330 kg of sesame seeds to 45 farmer groups and 2,040 women-headed households in Adjumani, Palorinya and Rhino Camp settlements, in addition to identifying 72 refugee women’s group with sufficient farming land in Palorinya and assisting them to access additional seeds.
In April, NURI staff volunteered to assist WFP in a range of life saving tasks by applying their mobility and strong knowledge of the settlements, illustrating another way of how humanitarian and development actors can work together and create synergies.
Uganda confirmed 2,751 COVID-19 cases as of 26 August, including 72 refugees. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has reported 28 deaths to date. Among them are two refugees. The Government of Uganda placed Kikuube district’s Kyangwali settlement under lockdown on 26 August, restricting movement and activities. However, humanitarian activities are ongoing to ensure delivery of assistance to the most vulnerable.
Funded at only 34 percent, UNHCR continues to work together with MoH to manage 19 quarantine facilities in refugee-hosting districts, train health workers, strengthen surveillance and infection prevention and control, and trace contacts of positive COVID-19 cases in refugee communities.