Iceland strengthens UNHCR partnership with 3-year agreement on additional support to refugees

On 27 February 2017, Iceland signed a 3-year agreement with UNHCR including additional support to UNHCR of a minimum of 50 million Icelandic Kronur, an important milestone in the partnership between Iceland and UNHCR.

Sidah Hawa and her kids just (from right :Zamzam Comfort (12), Fikira Aate (9), Aida Kiden (7), Gasia Yangi (5), Anyole Hamza (3) and Asanti Samira (1.5)) arrived in Palorinya settlements where each family will be given a piece of land for shelter. “I feared for my family safety, so I had to live my home. Is took her 2 days to get to the border from her village in Mogo, Yei county. The journey was hard as I had no food for my children and fed them with raw cassava and water”. ; Since July the influx of South Sudanese in Uganda has increased causing the main settlements (Bidi-Bidi and Nyumanzi) to be full in 3 months. UNHCR recently open a new settlement in Palorinya where new arrivals are currently being settled.

Iceland has increased its support to UNHCR considerable in recent years and gave its highest contribution ever in 2016 when they donated USD 2.4 million to the Syria crisis, making Iceland the seventh largest donor per capita to UNHCR.

The human tragedy of massive displacement continues to rise around the world and over 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflicts, war and persecution, more than half of them being children. 90 % of the world’s refugees and people forced to flee within their countries, are living in the developing world of which a fourth in the poorest countries in the world.

In a world of turmoil, refugees and host communities need our support more than ever. Iceland’s support and commitment to help refugees and forcibly displaced is an important show of solidarity and sends a vital signal of responsibility sharing with the countries in the war-torn regions of the world, says Pia Prytz Phiri, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Northern Europe.

Last year saw intensified violent conflict in many regions, notably Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen with most people fleeing within the immediate region. In South Sudan the situation has escalated into a full-blown humanitarian emergency with more than 1.5 million people having forced to flee the country to seek safety. This makes South Sudan Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the world’s third largest after Syria and Afghanistan – with less attention and chronic levels of underfunding.

The majority of the refugees, more than 1.1 million people, are being hosted by Uganda. 86 % of them are women and children who arrive exhausted and severely malnourished after having walked and hidden in the forests for days. Sidah Hawa and her six children recently reached Uganda after fleeing for three days through the bush without any proper food. She has now arrived to Palorinya settlement where each family will be given a piece of land for shelter.

“I feared for my family safety, so I had to leave my home. The journey was hard as I had no food for my children and fed them with raw cassava and water”

 Sidah Hawa, 30, who fled with her six children from South Sudan to Uganda


When refugees arrive to Uganda, UNHCR’s number one priority is to save lives and ensure basic needs by providing sleeping mats, blankets and sanitary materials and children are immunised against measles and polio. After that they are transferred to settlements within a local community and provided with small areas of land by the Uganda Government; a pioneering approach that enhances integration and allows refugees and host communities to live together peacefully. In addition, refugees are granted a range of rights and freedoms, allowing them to work, start businesses and freely move around the country.

However, the Uganda Government cannot tackle the crisis alone and it is absolutely vital that the international community supports Uganda. In 2016, the humanitarian appeal for the South Sudan crisis received less than 75 per cent of the funds needed. Hence, the contribution from Iceland can provide vital support to refugees such as Sidah and her children by helping them rebuild their lives and hope for the future in safety and dignity in Uganda. Since 2001, Iceland has donated almost USD 4 million to UNHCR. In 2017, Iceland has already contributed USD 220,000 to the Syria crisis.

Read more about Sida Hawah and her six children.