By the end of 2016, 65.6 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. That is an increase of 300,000 people from the previous year, and is the highest level since records began.
While the world focuses its attention on the seemingly unending crises in Syria and the Middle East, Uganda is now the centre of the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the ongoing conflict between North and South Sudan and one of the world’s worst famines, 2000 refugees cross the border from South Sudan to Uganda, on average every day. In fact, in the past 12 months the country has taken in around 1.3 million people, more than any other country in the world.
At the height of the famine at least 30 per cent of South Sudan’s population faced severe malnutrition, and one in 5,000 people died every day. UNICEF says that the lack of food is compounded by the inability for people to access clean water. “While food is a critical issue, it’s dirty water that is going to kill most children,” says UNICEF representative James Elder. “That’s why we have so many people now fleeing South Sudan every single week.”
Despite the obvious strain on Uganda’s resources, Elder says that the country has been very welcoming to refugees. “They offer them land, they offer them services, they offer them rights,” he said. “So I think amid all these challenges and all the horror people are enduring, this approach of the Ugandan Government that really offers better prospects to refugee kids is a really good lesson to other countries globally who are dealing with their own refugee crises,” he said.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres — while praising Uganda for accepting so many refugees — says the country is now massively overstretched. UN agencies and NGOs are struggling to provide enough food, water, medicines and other services needed to sustain such a huge population.
The Ugandan Government is seeking around $8 billion in humanitarian assistance
How you can help:
The following charities are working to support refugees in Uganda: