Kampala, Uganda | Michael O’HAGAN | AFP | The international community pledged $358 million at a fundraising summit Friday to help Uganda tackle the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, falling well short of expectations.
Organisers had hoped the meeting in the central city of Entebbe would raise at least $2 billion (1.8 billion euros) to help nearly a million South Sudanese fleeing civil war.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the pledges were a good beginning, but that more was needed.
“I think it is a very good start but we cannot stop,” he said.
However, Yuna Cho of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Uganda said, “The outcome is disappointing, worrying”.
“Although the number of people currently crossing the border is decreasing that didn’t mean that the problem is close to being solved,” Cho added.
On Thursday, Guterres visited refugee camps in northern Uganda, close to the South Sudan border, which have popped up over the last year, quickly becoming the largest in the world.
Guterres said Uganda’s “exemplary refugee policy” stands out in a world where many countries are turning their backs on foreigners in need.
Refugees were not living in camps but in settlements which were more like proper villages, according to the UN chief.
“They are allowed to farm the land, allowed to build the same schools, the same hospitals, the same health centres, to get jobs, to have a noble life, to live in dignity,” he said.
“It is necessary for the international community to recognise that Uganda has had an exemplary refugee policy in the past.
“And even today, faced with the largest refugee inflow, Uganda remains a symbol of the integrity of the refugee protection regime that unfortunately is not being respected everywhere in the world,” he said.
– 947,000 S.Sudanese in Uganda –
On Friday, European nations pledged 125 million euros on top of 85 million euros pledged by the EU on Thursday, but summit organisers say $8 billion — or 7.2 billion euros — is needed to deal with the crisis for the coming four years.
Appealing for funds, Guterres said international solidarity with Uganda was “not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of justice.”
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, achieved independence in 2011.
Civil war broke out in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.
In August 2015, a peace deal was signed but it collapsed in July last year when fighting broke out in Juba, spreading violence across the country.
It was this fighting that led to the biggest exodus, with some 743,000 South Sudanese arriving in Uganda since July 2016 — or about 2,000 a day.
There were already some 200,000 living in Uganda due to the initial outbreak of fighting in 2013, with the latest influx pushing the overall number close to a million.
More than 270,000 of them are housed in Bidibidi settlement, which overtook Kenya’s Dadaab earlier this year as the biggest refugee camp in the world.
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, but Guterres insisted that the violence stop.
“Everything must be done to end the war in South Sudan,” he said.
— State House Uganda (@StateHouseUg) June 23, 2017