1,470,981 (OPM/UNHCR, Jun. 2018)
Number of refugees
42,862.958 (WPP 2017)
0.493 (UNDP)
Human development index
5,1% (World Bank)
GDP growth
2,3% (World Bank)
Unemployment rate
19,7% (UNDP)
Poverty rate



For over five decades, Uganda has provided asylum to people fleeing war and persecution from many countries. It currently hosts over 1.4 million refugees, the majority of whom are from South Sudan (73%), the Democratic Republic of Congo (19%), Burundi (3%), Somalia (2.5%) and others (2.5%) [1]. When renewed conflict broke out in South Sudan in July 2016, an unprecedented number of refugees fled across the border to Uganda, doubling the refugee population in less than seven months. Uganda has become the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, with refugees making up 3.7% of the country’s total population of 39 million. Uganda is party to key refugee conventions and international human rights treaties.

Towards a more comprehensive refugee response

Despite the challenges generated by the influx from South Sudan over the past years, Uganda maintains one of the most progressive refugee protection policies in the world. In line with comprehensive responses to refugee crises, the Government upholds an inclusive approach, granting refugees freedom of movement, the right to work, to establish businesses and access public services such as education. Refugees in Uganda reside in settlements instead of camps, significantly enhancing their self-reliance and fostering peaceful coexistence with their hosts. In line with Uganda’s settlement approach, refugee families receive plots of land on which they can live and do farming. Even local communities have provided land to be used by refugees.

In order to ease pressure on local communities and services, and to leverage the positive economic impact that refugees can have if they are given the opportunity, Uganda has included refugees into national development plans through the Government’s Settlement Transformative Agenda (STA), which supports the development of refugee-hosting districts by investing in infrastructure, livelihoods, peaceful coexistence initiatives and environmental protection. The STA takes into account the protracted nature of displacement and its impact on local communities. The STA is also aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its main principle to “leave no one behind”. Owing to this, Uganda is regarded as a model for many other refugee-hosting countries.

 Strategic roll-out of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF)

Building on these existing comprehensive approaches to refugee movements, the CRRF in Uganda addresses five mutually-reinforcing areas: admission and rights; emergency response and ongoing needs; resilience and self-reliance of refugees; expansion of third country solutions and complementary pathways  (such as scholarships and student visas), and finally voluntary repatriation, which in the current situation focuses on investment in human capital and transferrable skills as well as support to the countries of origin.

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and UNHCR officially launched the CRRF on 24 March 2017, adapting the principles and objectives set out in Annex I of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants to the Ugandan context. On 25 March 2017, Uganda’s signed the Nairobi Declaration on Somali Refugees which seeks to find solutions for Somali refugees in the region.

Having initiated the CRRF in Uganda, the Government continues to assume full leadership of the process. In October 2017, a Government-led multi-stakeholder CRRF Steering Group was set up, bringing together humanitarian and development actors, local governments and authorities, refugees and the private sector, to engage and provide guidance on refugee affairs. The CRRF Steering Group mobilises support from humanitarian and development actors, including civil society and the private sector. It also documents lessons learned from the Uganda refugee context to inform global, regional and national initiatives, including the development of the global compact on refugees. A CRRF Secretariat was set up to provide technical support to the CRRF Steering Group, staffed with secondments from within the Government and external stakeholders.

The CRRF roadmap, which guides the application of the framework in Uganda, was unanimously endorsed at the second meeting of the CRRF Steering Group in January 2018.  At next meeting (April 2018), a decision was made to strengthen local ownership of the CRRF by through a decision to appoint  Ministry of Local Government as co-chair of the Steering Group alongside the Office of the Prime Minister. The Steering Group agreed to optimize coordination at the local level, within the existing frameworks and without compromising effectiveness (for instance, by integrating the refugee sector working groups (RCM) in the development sector working groups, so as to broaden coordination and communication flows). It also agreed to focus on the water sector as the next priority. The next meetings of the Steering Group are scheduled for 27 June and 17 October 2018.

Through the above CRRF facilitation mechanisms, Uganda seeks to create a more predictable and sustainable approach to refugee management, respond more efficiently to the refugee emergencies, and accelerate the implementation of the Government’s Refugee and Host Population Empowerment (ReHoPE) strategy. ReHoPE provides a national framework for integrated and holistic support to refugees and host populations. It was incorporated into the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) in 2016, thereby supporting the National Development Plan II (NDP II) and the Settlement Transformative Agenda. The refugee response and ReHoPE represent key building blocks to realize the CRRF in Uganda, making refugees part and parcel of the development agenda. In keeping with the spirit of the New York Declaration, ReHoPE seeks to enhance peaceful coexistence between refugees and Ugandans and protect asylum space, and helps to equip refugees with skills and knowledge to rebuild their countries of origin once peace is assured.

Key Partnerships

The World Bank approved a US$50 million loan to help Uganda invest in the socio-economic development of refugee-hosting districts. Uganda is also eligible for the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA)-18 regional sub-window for refugees and host communities, which aims to support low-income countries to mitigate the impact of forced displacement and support the delivery of services for refugees and the communities hosting them. The national ReHoPE strategy is funded by World Bank and UN contributions towards the implementation of the Settlement Transformative Agenda. Under this programme, humanitarian and development actors, together with the private sector, work jointly to support the Government to deliver socio-economic progress in refugee-hosting areas.

 Additionality secured through the CRRF

In June 2017, the President of Uganda and the UN Secretary-General, with the support of UNHCR and the UN family in Uganda, co-chaired a Solidarity Summit on Refugees, raising USD$ 524 million, including USD$ 3.5 million in new funding (more information here). The Education Cannot Wait funding initiative which aims to mainstream education in emergencies raised USD$3.5 million. The World Bank USD$50 million loan was approved by the Parliament of Uganda and the Bank’s IDA-18 sub-window provides a prospect for additional financing of USD 140 million. Other funds secured through the CRRF include the EU Trust Fund for The Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (EUR150 million); the German development bank KfW’s Refugee Response Fund Project Activities (EUR10 million); the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for South Sudanese refugees (US$4.8 million); Global Funds for Malaria (US$3.5 million); and GAVI funding for immunization (US$1 million).

Operational and funding needs to deliver on a comprehensive refugee response

  1. Support towards more sustainable responses in emergencies, including early engagement of development actors. The ongoing influx from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) offer a timely opportunity to test this early engagement and to learn lessons from early harmonized efforts between humanitarian and development actors from the first stages of an emergency.
  2. Funding: the 2018 Operating Plan (OP) was costed at US$ 6 million; however only 8% of the budget is funded. In parallel, the Uganda section of the South Sudan emergency response appeal is only 4% funded.
  3. Complementary pathways: Third-country governments, in cooperation and with the support of other stakeholders such as the private sector, civil society and diaspora organizations are encouraged to establish and expand complementary pathways for refugees living in CRRF roll-out countries. These pathways may include expanded family reunification and family-based mobility programmes; labour mobility schemes; scholarships and education programmes; and regional mobility schemes. (Note: implementation of such pathways necessitates certain facilitative administrative measures, as well as protection safeguards. UNHCR may support States with technical advice in these areas).
  4. Greater support for broad involvement of government offices including line ministries, district authorities and host populations in the strategic roll-out of CRRF.
  5. Greater coherence and rationalization of NGO and UN Agencies’ support to the CRRF Secretariat, for maximum efficiency.
  6. Need for expanded private sector and civil society partnerships to encourage the integration of innovative approaches in refugee responses.
  7. Resettlement: The projected resettlement needs for 2018 for refugees in Uganda are 87,500 persons, while the projected resettlement needs for 2019 are 153,000 persons. In 2017 the Uganda Resettlement Programme benefitted from a marked increase in diversity of resettlement countries, including Belgium, which received refugees from Uganda for the first time.


Contact persons in Uganda UNHCR Operation

Miriam Malmqvist,


[1] As at June 2018, source: OPM RIMS

Current challenges

Despite some additional funding secured through the CRRF, Uganda’s refugee response remains chronically underfunded. Without more support from the international community, and investments by existing and new partners including the private sector, Uganda’s ability to fully realize this exemplary model is at risk. The additional USD 3.5 million allocated in the context of the June 2017 Solidarity Summit has not been entirely disbursed.


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