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WFP gets Shs 490bn for refugee crisis

UN agency says it needs more aid to stave off looming crisis

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has commended several donors for their recent response to the call to ramp-up funding for the refugee response in Uganda.

According to WFP, since 2020 began, close to US$ 133.75 million (about Shs 490 billion) has been donated by the U.S., the UK, the EU, South Korea, Canada, Ireland and Denmark.

El-Khidir Daloum, the WFP Country Director for Uganda thanked the EU, Ireland and the UK for providing an additional €3.5 million, €1 million and £6.8 million respectively, as well as the United States, which contributed US$15 million more to WFP last year compared to 2019 and 2018.

Ireland particularly brought forward its original contribution for 2020 by four months because of urgent needs while the United States provided advance financing against a recently confirmed US$36 million contribution. U.S. advance funding meant WFP could buy food early on local markets for distributions to refugees early this year.

“This is exactly what is needed: donors which continuously mobilise resources from their capitals and do all they can to help, knowing that the stakes are high with a refugee population in Uganda comprised of many mothers with young children and fragile livelihoods who suffer when we have to cut rations,” said Daloum.

Uganda hosts 1.45 million refugees, one of the largest refugee populations hosted by a single country. Nearly 90% of the refugees or 1.26 million live in 13 rural settlements having arrived in Uganda with little or no assets, which leave them heavily dependent on WFP’s continued assistance.

Uganda provides the refugees with land and allows them to work and move freely as part of its own commitment under the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) which promotes greater support to refugees and the countries that host them. The refugees remain vulnerable partly because of limited access to farmland, bad weather in some settlements, and limited income earning opportunities.

WFP provides them with monthly relief assistance in the form of in-kind food or cash to meet their basic food needs. The level of assistance depends on funding availability.

According to the WFP Country office, without the additional funding, WFP would have had almost no resources at all for its refugee relief operation in recent months. The extra funding cushioned refugees during a period of high food insecurity caused by the lingering impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns and a 30 percent WFP ration cut since April 2020.

Last December, the WFP warned it would reduce monthly relief cash and food rations for the 1.26 million refugees in the country due to a funding shortfall.

The UN Food agency noted that with effect from February, this year, refugees would have to survive on only 60% of full rations.

“COVID-19 must not be an excuse for the world to turn its back on refugees at this terrible time,” said Daloum.

“We appreciate that donors fully funded our refugee operation in Uganda in 2019 but right now, we are unable to keep up even basic food assistance and the poorest will suffer the most as we have to cut still further.”

More donations

Despite the increased support from some donors, WFP was forced to reduce the ration reduction to 40% from February 2021 because the longer-term WFP outlook for funding is extremely challenging. Based on its funding forecasts, WFP cannot rule out deeper refugee ration cuts in the coming months.

The WFP country office says new donors are needed to secure a steady food supply in 2021 in line with the international community’s commitments to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees under Uganda’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).

“We cannot stop our support until all refugees can return home,” Daloum said.

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