The EU pledged 85 million euros (about Shs340,872,633,942) to Uganda Thursday, ahead of a summit to raise twenty times that amount to help it deal with nearly one million refugees from South Sudan.
Uganda is facing the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis as South Sudanese pour over the border to escape more than three years of civil war in their country.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is visiting a refugee settlement Thursday, before joining other top officials, donors and regional leaders for the Refugee Solidarity Summit in Kampala on Friday.
The summit aims to raise $2 billion for the coming year, however organisers say $8 billion is needed to deal with the crisis for the coming four years.
The European pledge is to "help Uganda deal with this unprecedented situation and support the most vulnerable refugees," said aid commissioner Christos Stylianides, who visited the Imvepi settlement in the remote north of the country with UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi.
"Uganda’s example of helping vulnerable people cope with displacement is an example for the whole region and the world. However no country can deal with such a high number of refugees on its own," said Stylianides.
’Treating the symptoms’
According to the UN refugee agency more than 947,000 South Sudanese refugees are sheltering in Uganda, bringing the total number of refugees in the east African nation to more than 1.2 million.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, was plunged into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.
An August 2015 peace deal was left in tatters when fighting broke out in Juba in July last year, spreading violence across the country.
It was this outbreak of fighting that led to the biggest exodus, with some 743,000 South Sudanese arriving in Uganda since July 2016, about 2,000 a day.
More than 270,000 are housed in Bidibidi settlement, which overtook Kenya’s Dadaab earlier this year as the biggest refugee camp in the world.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been hailed for a progressive refugee policy in which refugees are allowed to work and access public services.
However the situation on the ground has been overwhelming for locals and aid workers, with not enough food and water to go around.
The UN estimates that another 500,000 South Sudanese will arrive in Uganda this year.
The summit will not include discussions on how to end the ongoing fighting, and there is no peace process in sight.
"We are treating the symptoms but the real root cause of this violence should be addressed. That is what is forcing people to run from their land," said Wadri Sam Nykua, the top government official in Arua, Uganda, welcoming the EU and UN officials to the refugee settlement.
- The UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres shakes hands with some of the refugees at Imvepi settlement camp on Thursday.