KAMPALA, October 1, 2019 — Uganda’s progressive and welcoming approach towards refugees is a good model for other host countries, but much more is needed to improve the social and economic wellbeing of refugees and the communities that host them, according to a new report released today by the World Bank Group.
“The people of Uganda have been incredibly generous towards refugees, and this generosity of the host communities should be recognized by supporting them to have a higher quality of life. This study provides an evidence-based understanding of the living conditions of both refugees and hosts, which we expect will inform policy and programming for the national refugee response,” said Tony Thompson, World Bank Country Manager for Uganda.
Uganda is currently hosting 1.3 million refugees and is the country with the largest number of refugees in Africa and the third largest in the world. Refugees in Uganda access the same social services as their local host community and are free to move and work. When possible, they are allocated a small piece of land to settle and farm, which encourages self-reliance, and promotes their coexistence and integration into local communities.
According to the report, “Informing the Refugee Policy Response in Uganda,” Uganda’s progressive refugee policy and comprehensive response with support from development and humanitarian partners has made it possible for refugees to have equal access to social services as their hosts, and in some instances, they enjoy more favourable access, when compared to host communities.
About 95 percent of refugees and 66 percent of hosts have access to improved water while access to electricity stands at around 50 percent for both. Primary school enrollment is almost at par with refugees at 65 percent and hosts at 68 percent. Completion rates and secondary enrollment rates remain low for both populations but particularly for refugees, and the same goes for improved sanitation. The health and health care access of both populations however remains similar. More than 80 percent of refugees and hosts reported consulting a healthcare provider when sick. Refugees are geographically closer to health centers, with at least 75 percent traveling three kilometers to reach a healthcare center when ill, compared to 65 percent of hosts. This is made easier by Non-Governmental Organizations that provide healthcare services for refugees within or very close to the designated refugee settlements.
The report also shows that refugees contribute significantly to the local economy, by purchasing goods and services in the local markets and operating businesses. About one in 5 employees of refugee enterprises is a Ugandan and around 54 percent sell off their crops. However, weather shock and low access to agricultural inputs constrains their productivity which makes them food insecure and to rely on humanitarian assistance.
Despite feeling safe and secure in Uganda, about half of the refugee population (48 percent) live in poverty, compared to 17 percent of the host population. Poverty among refugees is highest in the West Nile region of the country where close to 60 percent of refugees are poor and around 30 percent of hosts are poor. Around 54 percent of refugees depend on humanitarian assistance as their main source of income compared to less than 2 percent for the hosts. Their inability to generate income is constrained by low levels of human capital as less than 8 percent have received skills or job training.
The report recommends measures to improve self-reliance of refugees and communities that host them to enhance both their living conditions, and contribution to the Ugandan economy. These include raising the productivity of agricultural activities through the provision of inputs and extension services, as well as creating job opportunities in non-agricultural sectors.
The report is a collaboration with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics and the Office of the Prime Minister and is based on the 2018 Uganda Refugee and Host Communities Household Survey. It is funded by the State and Peacebuilding Trust Fund, the World Bank’s largest, global multi-donor trust fund established to finance innovative approaches to state and peace-building in regions affected by fragility, conflict and violence.