In 2018, some 40,718 South Sudanese refugees sought safety in Uganda, citing fears of sexual and physical violence, political uncertainty, forced recruitment of children, and looting compounded by food insecurity as reasons for fleeing their country of origin. With a refugee influx lower than anticipated in the 2018 Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), in mid 2018 partners resolved to revise downwards the planning figure for the number of new refugees expected to arrive from South Sudan by year-end 2018, from 300,000 to 100,000.
In order to address growing concerns about the accuracy and reliability of refugee data used for fundraising, programming and assistance, the Government of Uganda and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) jointly launched in March a biometric verification of all refugees, with 1.15 million refugees identified as present in the country by October 2018 – compared to 1.4 million recorded in the previous Government refugee information management system (RIMS).
With ongoing influxes from neighboring countries, the refugee population in Uganda continued to grow, with 1,190,922 individuals biometrically registered as refugees and asylum seekers as of 31 December 2018.
Among them were 789,099 refugees from South Sudan. The vast majority lives in settlements in northern Uganda, mainly in the districts of Yumbe (28 per cent), Adjumani (25.5 per cent), Arua (19 per cent), Moyo (15 per cent), Kiryandongo (7 per cent) and Lamwo (4.3 per cent), with smaller numbers in Kikuube district (0.4 per cent) and urban Kampala (0.3 per cent). Nearly 66 per cent are children.
The Government of Uganda continued to grant South Sudanese refugee status on a prima facie basis. In line with the 2006 Refugee Act, refugees enjoy freedom of movement, the right to work and establish businesses, the right to documentation and equal access to national services.
Partners continued to provide all new arrivals with reception assistance at entry points and collection centres as well as relocation to settlements. The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) continued to undertake registration and documentation of refugees.
In the settlements, refugees continued to receive monthly food rations, household items and access to health care, education, water and sanitation, and protection services. New arrivals were allocated a plot of land for housing and farming, donated by host communities.
Building on existing complaint mechanisms, in October 2018 partners launched an inter-agency Feedback, Referral and Resolution Mechanism (FRRM) to improve two-way communication with refugees and enhance accountability to affected populations.
In line with the Grand Bargain’s commitment to improve joint and impartial needs assessments, an inter-agency multi-sector needs assessment (MSNA) of refugee and host communities was carried out from March to July in 12 refugee-hosting districts and 30 refugee settlements. The findings, reviewed by a joint analysis taskforce, were extensively used to inform the 2019-2020 RRP.
With only 68 per cent of funding received in 2018, RRP partners continued to face enormous challenges in stabilising existing programmes and often meeting the minimum standards of service provision, let alone investing in long-term and more sustainable interventions. Notably, severe underfunding compromised the quality of child protection, education and water and sanitation services and limited the capacity to fully support prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), environmental protection, support resilience of host communities, and permanent community infrastructure