Uganda has a refugee population of 1.45 million making it the biggest refugee hosting nation in Africa and third in the world
Refugee hosting communities from eleven districts in Uganda are set to benefit from a $50m (sh184b) project aimed at improving their livelihoods.
The project dubbed Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP) was last week launched by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda at a function held in Kyarugaju in Isingiro district.
Funded by the World Bank, the project will be implemented for five years in refugee hosting districts of Yumbe, Koboko, Arua, Hoima, Kyegegwa and Isingiro. Others are Moyo, Lamwo, Adjumani, and Kiryandongo.
Refugee hosting areas are among the poorest and less developed sub regions in Uganda.
The presence of refugees affects the coping abilities of host communities by increasing demand and competition for natural resources, food and basic social economic services like health and education.
According the Office of the Prime Minister Uganda has a refugee population of 1.45 million making it the biggest refugee hosting nation in Africa and third in the world.
While launching the project, Rugunda regretted the government’s delay in putting in place projects that directly benefit the host communities.
“For a long time the government and majority of humanitarian actors concentrated service delivery to refugees and little has been done for host communities. This project has been strategically designed by government to address development challenges in refugee communities,” Rugunda said.
While in Isingiro Rugunda, commissioned the construction of Kyarugaju Health Centre II, which is one of the seven projects that will be implemented in Isingiro.
Six classrooms will also be constructed on each of the six primary schools in Isingiro. The classroom blocks will be equipped with desks, lightening conductors.
Thirteen blocks of 5 stance latrines and two 10,000 water tanks will also be part of the project on the schools.
Similar projects were also launched in Kamwenge , Yumbe, Kyegegwa Arua, Moyo and Adjumani districts, and will be launched in the other hosting districts.
Rugunda said government is committed to ensuring refugees become a blessing and not a burden to the host communities and the country at large.
“We shall ensure asylum space for refugees in Uganda while at the same time we are protecting the interest of the host communities,” Rugunda said.
He challenged neighbouring countries involved in conflicts to resolve them amicably to avoid wars that lead to displacement of people.
“Stop these embarrassing and costly conflicts and opt for peaceful resolution of the same to allow our people settle down and engage in meaningful development of their lives and their countries. We are all losers whether directly in these conflicts or not,”Rugunda said.
If the project is implemented well, Rugunda said government will source for more funding to a tune of $150m (sh552b).
According to Charles Bafaki, the DRDIP project manager, the project will address infrastructure needs in health, education, and roads. It will also address environmental protection and livelihoods
“We shall look at income generating activities and fund them especially areas of value addition. On environment we shall help the community with alternative sources of energy like solar and planting trees,” Bafaki said.
The Isingiro LC5 chairman Jeremiah Kamurari who has been at loggerheads with the OPM over the coming of refugees in Isingiro apologised for his fight against the presence of refugees in the district.
“This is the first time since we started hosting refugees that we have also benefited. We are going to start working with them very well. I would now like to apologize for the fighting I have been having with the refugees,” Kamurari said.
Edith Kwarisima a resident of Kyarugaju notes that as host communities they are excited about the project that will help them see the benefit of hosting refugees.
“We are now going to have our own health facility which is near us. This will save mothers from walking long distances to go and deliver,” Kwarisima said.
Kyarugaju Health Center II will get a combined OPD and maternity with a latrine and placenta pit, supply, delivery, and installation of a lightening protection, a 10,000ltr capacity stainless steel rain water harvesting tank and solar power unit.
For a long time Uganda has been hosting refugees but host communities have never had any program dedicated to improvement of their lives.
This has sometimes led to conflicts between the host communities and refugees.