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Q&A: Uganda’s refugee minister seeks solidarity in first-of-its-kind summit

FILE PHOTO: Refugees flee with their property from South Sudan to Uganda

Kampala, Uganda | AMY FALLON||  As a former refugee in Kenya, Musa Francis Ecweru often reflects on the generosity of his once-host nation.

Today, as Uganda’s state minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, he sits on the other side of the table, managing his country’s reception in the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

The east African country is now home to over 1.2 million people who have fled 13 countries, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency and the World Bank.

Ahead of the summit, co-chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri K. Museveni and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, Devex spoke to Ecweru about his goals and expectations.

Why is this summit being held?

Uganda has one of the most forward-looking refugee policies in the world, which recognizes refugees as human beings [who] deserve support and protection by members of the international community. Now, the reality is that while we continue to keep our door open, there is a negative side. These millions here put a lot of pressure on the resources available.

What are some of the particular challenges that Uganda now faces in hosting so many refugees?

One of the challenges is the depletion of the environment. Refugees must compete with Ugandans to cut trees for energy. They cut trees to build shelters. All that has a big impact on the environment. It is something we must really look at.


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