Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown at “Uganda Country Refugee Response Plan 2022-2025” Report Launch
May 4, 2022 | Sheraton Hotel, Kampala (As prepared for delivery)
I appreciate the invitation to be here with you today to participate in the launch of the Uganda Country Refugee Response Plan. This forum brings together a consortium of decision makers, donors, and multilateral agencies to appeal for continued assistance for the 1.6 million refugees residing in Uganda.
Today, we also have the opportunity to advocate for durable solutions that meet the basic needs of refugees and host communities, bolster self-sufficiency, protect refugees’ rights, and improve their access to public services.
So, within that framework, I welcome the opportunity to share a bit with you about what the United States does for refugees in Uganda and why do we do it.
For most of Uganda’s almost 60 years of independence – which we will all recognize later this year – the United States has been the country’s largest foreign assistance partner, and that remains the case today with our investments in health, education, economic development, and the promotion of a just and democratic Uganda. The United States is also the largest supporter of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), both worldwide and in Uganda. We provide humanitarian assistance to ease suffering, to address immediate needs of persecuted and forcibly displaced people, and to seek longer term solutions to displacement.
Through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), we also support NGOs working in 13 refugee settlements throughout Uganda and with urban refugees in Kampala. These programs provide education, assistance with livelihoods, medical care, and protection services to the refugees. Last year, PRM provided nearly $97 million (or over 346 billion Ugandan shillings) in support of UNHCR, IOM, and various NGOs for their operations supporting these efforts.
The United States also provides life-sustaining humanitarian food assistance to meet the daily needs of most refugees in Uganda, without which many refugee households would face acute food insecurity. The U.S. government funds the World Food Program (WFP) through USAID to provide refugees with emergency food assistance and supplemental nutritious foods. We encourage the purchase of locally procured food to benefit Ugandan farmers, as well as the use of cash-based transfers to empower vulnerable individuals to purchase the food they want for their families from local vendors. Additionally, USAID supports NGOs to help refugees build self-reliance and decrease dependency on humanitarian assistance through livelihood and socio-economic opportunities. Last year, we provided $84 million (300 billion Ugandan shillings) for refugee food assistance.
These efforts are both immediate support and an investment in the future of refugees. But, we urge other donors to take a fresh look at their commitments to refugees in Uganda and try to do more.
We’ve already done that and the United States is once again taking up the mantle of leadership on refugee resettlement, including through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which has welcomed more than 3.1 million refugees since 1980. President Biden has already taken the critical step of raising the annual refugee admissions target to 125,000, allocating 40,000 of those slots to refugees from Africa.
During a time of record displacement, the United States will do its part to help the most vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives in safety in communities across the United States. Reflecting America’s longstanding tradition of welcoming refugees, I am also proud to share that over the past 10 years, the United States has welcomed 20,742 refugees from various countries who had resettled in Uganda.
Here in Uganda, I have seen the difference our partnership makes. Recently, I visited the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement and saw life-changing and life-saving work, benefitting not only the refuges, but also the Ugandans in the surrounding community. I was struck by the dedication of everyone working there: OPM, UNHCR, WFP, and the NGOs we fund through PRM and USAID. I met with students whose interest in continuing their studies was palpable. I saw the tiniest of newborn babies in neo-natal intensive care wards. I met with women who had, for the first time, received training on financial literacy and how to save for the future. I spent time with some of these women who had formed savings associations, using these funds to start small businesses to improve their lives and those of their families. Some even shared how greater financial independence changed the dynamic with their husbands, reducing gender-based violence. The needs remain great, but it was rewarding to see the positive changes that can be made when we work together towards a common goal.
Another common goal is ensuring resources go where they are needed and are used for their intended purposes. The United States is committed to transparency and accountability in its overseas assistance and we expect the same from our development and humanitarian partners. We recognize achievements in this realm when we see them, but will continue to speak up if these principles and standards are not respected.
In closing, I would like to reiterate the United States’ commitment to alleviating the suffering of refugees globally through our leadership in humanitarian assistance and diplomacy. International cooperation is essential, and we recommit to multilateral engagement to meet immediate humanitarian needs and to seek durable solutions for refugees to live with hope and dignity. No single country can respond to this global crisis alone, and no country is untouched by the impacts of forced displacement. We are in this together, both as donor countries and host countries, and we need to engage in burden-sharing to the greatest extent possible.
Finally, and most importantly, thank you again to the Government of Uganda for being a generous host to refugees; the open door policy is unique and a reason to appreciate the government and especially the Ugandan people. To UNHCR, thank you for critical support of the humanitarian refugee response. The United States is an enduring partner in support of Uganda’s mission to assist refugees and Ugandan host communities; I am grateful to play a role in contributing to this strategic document.