Protracted crisis at a crossroads: The evolving challenges of Uganda's refugee response

Speakers: Roos Derrix and Kristof Titeca

Refugee-assistance is traditionally looked at as a short-term humanitarian intervention, but how to manage a refugee crisis in a protracted crisis situation, lasting for several decades?  Uganda is worldwide seen a ‘role model’ for hosting refugees: With almost 1.6 million refugees, Uganda is the largest refugee hosting country on the African continent; and it offers all refugees access to services and a plot of land. Yet, donors are increasingly hesitant to foot the bill, for both ideological and financial reasons. This has led to two proposed solutions: first, a ‘food prioritization policy’, and second, what is referred to as a ‘transition’ scenario. This presentation will discuss both of these policies; and the risks involved.

First, the transition refers to the handover of social service delivery and infrastructure from NGO’s in refugee settlements to the Government of Uganda. Consequently, this means a shift from a humanitarian towards a development-oriented system, where the hosting district local governments are in the lead of all social service delivery. Yet, this involves a number of risks, which tell us something (i) on the Humanitarian-Development Nexus (HDN) approach, but also (ii) on the broader relations between the Ugandan government and the development community. Second, the food prioritization policy rests upon the basic premise that food aid should be given based on the level of vulnerability of refugees. Our presentation discusses the difficulties in this, and the preliminary results of this intervention.