A total of over USD 300 million has been pledged in interventions by countries, development partners, companies and individuals to assist Uganda cope with the growing number of refugees.
The commitments were made on Friday in the course of the high level Solidarity Summit on Refugees co-hosted by President Yoweri Museveni and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at Speke Resort in Munyonyo.
By the end of the summit on Friday afternoon, USD 358.3 million, an equivalent of Ush 1.2trillion had been pledged which represents 17.6% of the required amount.
Uganda convened the summit in order to bring together different global stakeholders in humanitarian work to mobilize a sum of USD 2billion that the country requires to meet the needs of refugees for a year.
Conflicts and climatic disasters in neighboring countries have forced thousands of refugees to flee into Uganda over the years raising the refugee population to over 1.2 million.
South Sudanese constitute the largest number of refugees in Uganda with over 800,000 of them having fled war. Other refugees have origins in DRC, Burundi, Somalia and Rwanda.
As a result of the refugee influx, both government of Uganda and the local population have had to endure immense pressure on resources and facilities including health, education and water.
President Museveni in his opening remarks had highlighted food, water, education, health, shelter and energy sources as challenges Uganda is facing as a refugee host country.
Among the countries that committed to offering financial support were; the United Kingdom (USD 15m), United Arab Emirates (USD 5m), Japan (USD 10m) and Germany (USD 55.5m).
On its part, Italy pledged 5m Euros in support to Uganda while Canada promised to give in 15m (Canadian Dollars) and Equatorial Guinea offered USD 100,000.
The World Bank will also contribute discounted interest grants to go into development projects that will benefit refugees and host communities.
In offering their support, Heads of State including Edgar Lungu of Zambia, Mohamed Farmajoo of Somalia and several other diplomats who represented their countries thanked Uganda for its remarkable approach towards refugees.
The European Union (E.U) Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides said the E.U will fund humanitarian activities in Uganda with up to 85m Euros in addition to 800m Euros already committed for the period 2014 to 2020.
However, most of the participants insisted that beyond short term interventions, there is need to find a lasting solution to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
“Humanitarian assistance itself isn’t the end. Countries like South Sudan must be ready to make compromises put in hardwork and commitment if peace is to be achieved,” the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told delegates at the summit.
He tasked the East African regional partners to pile pressure on South Sudan in order to foster peace.
The other commitments were made by Sweden (USD 27m), African Development Bank (USD 100,000), Norway (USD 4m), Austria (2m Euros) and the People’s Republic of China (USD 500,000).
Telecom company MTN Uganda, pledged USD 277,000 (Ush 1 billion). The telco has previously invested in masts in refugee areas and easing access to finance through its Mobile Money platform.
In commending the financial support promised, President Yoweri Museveni said; “I thank all those who have contributed. This is a very unique effort that I haven’t seen elsewhere. We shall continue to open space for refugees who are our brothers and sisters.”
Museveni also asked the international community to assist refugees that possess skills citing the Somalis living in Uganda whose morbidity has eased their integration in urban areas like Kampala.
Whereas the target figure of USD 2bn wasn’t hit, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said; “This is a good starting point especially with the commitments made by ADB and World Bank who promised grants to fund innovative projects.”
“As you heard, many others will be announcing their pledges soon. I congratulate President Museveni on a successful conference,” Guterres added.