The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) received US$1 million from the Government of Denmark today to assist refugees in Kampala struggling because of the socio-economic impact of lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19.
WFP began delivering cash assistance to an initial group of Kampala-based refugees on 5 June. Thanks to this contribution, WFP can continue rolling out assistance in coming weeks. Each refugee receives the equivalent of three months’ worth of cash—with this funding supporting almost two months of that.
“The people of Denmark are aware of how desperate the situation for refugees living in Kampala could become without assistance,” said Henrick Jespersen, the Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Denmark in Uganda. “We hope that this contribution can help stem the dire economic situation of refugees in Uganda’s capital while acting as a symbol of our solidarity and partnership with the people of Uganda and its government during this global crisis.”
Jespersen acknowledged the strategic and effective measures that the Government of Uganda have taken to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in the country while at the same time continuing its progressive refugee policy. “The way you welcome your neighbours in your country is a testimony to Ugandan hospitality and is what makes Uganda the leading country in the world in delivering on the global Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework,” he said.
Kampala hosts over 81,000 refugees who sought refuge from conflicts in neighbouring countries. Unlike refugees in designated refugee settlements in Uganda, refugees in Kampala are not normally given food or cash assistance from WFP because they can access markets and services.
Before the pandemic, most refugees in urban centres worked day-by-day in the informal sector for instance as casual workers and were expected to be self-sufficient. COVID-19 and measures to contain its spread however forced tens of thousands out of work and deeper into hunger and poverty.
In a WFP survey in April, 87 percent of refugees said that the pandemic had negative impacts on their livelihoods, with at least 50 percent saying they had lost 75 percent of their income due to lockdowns. Refugee families headed by women, the elderly and the disabled were hardest hit.
Market food prices in Kampala increased by as much as three percent in the first week of the lockdown, making it even more difficult for people to afford enough food for their survival.
“This is an unprecedented emergency and as such, WFP came up with innovative ways to reach those most in need,” said El-Khidir Daloum, Country Representative for WFP in Uganda.
“Despite this global health emergency, the basic needs of refugees in Uganda remain and, in many cases, have deepened,” he added. “We were ready to help when the Government asked for our assistance with Kampala-based refugees. We are extremely grateful to those new donors who came forward to support this urban response.”
WFP’s cash assistance is delivered through mobile phones, which means people don’t have to gather in large crowds. WFP works with the Office of the Prime Minister and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to check the identities of Kampala-based refugees. WFP’s cash assistance complements cash transfers by UNHCR to help refugees meet their non-food basic needs.
“With or without COVID, our approach to the way we respond to refugees will not change,” said Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness and Refugees Musa Ecweru. “When people have food in their bellies, they are more likely to cooperate with government safety guidelines. Generous donations from the Government of Denmark and assistance from WFP is actually keeping both refugees and Ugandans safe from COVID-19.”
The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.