Danish emergency funding helps support refugee children in Uganda

Uganda is hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the world, but severe underfunding causes critical gaps in the refugee response and protection.

© UNHCR/Duniya Aslam Khan

Patience was just a teenager when she was forced to flee her home, leaving behind her parents and her country South Sudan, with its raging conflict and brutal violence. Together with her two cousins, she crossed the border and arrived in Uganda in 2014.

Without parents or other caretakers to pay her school fees, she had no choice but to drop out. “I used to dream of becoming a lawyer. To talk on behalf of women,” says Patience who still has not given up hope for her native country: “I dream that I’ll have children who will rebuild South Sudan, when peace returns.”

But until then, Patience is safe in Uganda, together with the more than 1.3 million other refugees who have sought refuge here, making Uganda the largest refugee hosting country in Africa and the third largest in the world.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recently allocated DKK 10 million (USD 1.5 million) from Denmark’s Emergency Reserve Fund to support the refugees in Uganda.

The contribution from Denmark provides a much needed boost to the response as more refugees arrive daily – in October alone, Uganda received 6,600 new arrivals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Burundi. Ongoing violence, instability and fear of persecution in neighboring countries, mainly in South Sudan and the DRC, are forcing people to flee to safety and seek refuge in Uganda. So far this year, over 85,000 new refugees entered the country, including 51,000 from the Democratic of the Congo, 29,000 from South Sudan and nearly 5,000 from Burundi.

At the same time chronic underfunding is continuously threatening the ability to deliver lifesaving assistance, adequate protection as well as ensure that refugee children can go to school.

With sixty-two per cent of Uganda’s refugees being children and youth, the current gaps in child protection and education services are critical. Thousands of unaccompanied children face serious protection risks including physical, sexual and gender-based violence and recruitment for child labor. More than 200,000 refugee children are out of school, with enrolment rates in secondary schools being particularly low. For refugees attending school, facilities are stretched, resulting in up to 150 pupils per classroom and 85 pupils per teacher.

South Sudanese Patience is a refugee in Uganda but is dreaming of returning, once peace comes. ©UNHCR/Yonna Tukundane

The money from Denmark will help UNHCR deliver essential aid such as shelter, clean drinking water and healthcare – but it will also enable UNHCR to strengthen the protection of the many children and youth. Efforts for unaccompanied children include improving care procedures, providing psychosocial support and establishing child friendly spaces. Simultaneously, UNHCR works to ensure significant progress on the access to and quality of education, e.g. by training and hiring new teachers and providing accelerated education programs to help out-of-school children and youth such as Patience back to the classrooms.

“With the high proportion of children and youth in the refugee population in Uganda, it’s vital to step up the support and strengthen the protection and education response, if we are not to lose an entire generation. The support from Denmark helps us to do just that, while at the same time sending an important sign of solidarity to Uganda, generously sharing their limited resources with a large and growing refugee population,” says Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Northern Europe.

A mother with her children arriving in Uganda’s Kagoma reception centre after having fled brutal attacks, arson and killings in Democratic Republic of the Congo. © UNHCR/Duniya Aslam Khan

The funding to Uganda was allocated by UNHCR from Denmark’s Emergency Reserve Fund, which also provided vital support to UNHCR’s operations in Cameroon, Chad, Rwanda and South Sudan, with each receiving DKK 10 million (USD 1.5 million) in 2019.


Denmark as a donor to UNHCR

Denmark has long ranked among UNHCR’s top ten donors. In 2019, Denmark has increased its overall funding to UNHCR, already totaling USD 92 million (up from USD 82 million in 2018). Each year, around USD 25 million of Denmark’s funding is provided as completely unearmarked flexible funding.

Within its overall funding, Denmark annually contributes with an Emergency Reserve Fund of DKK 50.5 million (around USD 7.5 million) at the start of each year, which UNHCR can allocate towards the most urgent needs. The flexibility of the fund allows UNHCR to respond to emergencies, which saves lives and assists displaced people with critical protection needs and acute basic necessities.