The REFUGEE CRISIS you haven't heard about

When most people think of the "refugee crisis" their mind often goes to Syria or the middle east and Europe. I doubt most people would even think about Uganda, but they should. In fact, the world's largest refugee camp is IN Uganda. Consultations that have taken place since 193 member states of the United Nations in 2016 adopted the New York Declaration committing members to better share responsibility for the world’s refugees and support the communities that host them in a global compact. This included drawing up a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).  “The New York Declaration emerged from the Syria refugee crisis – or rather the failure to address some of the challenges of this crisis. But the challenges go well beyond the Syria refugee situation – this is a global problem” Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees during High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, told the opening session.

Uganda has taken in 1.3 million people in the past 12 months alone from neighboring countries. Most have come from Southern Sudan because of nearly 5 years of famine and conflict.

A year ago Greece and Turkey bore the brunt of the world's worst refugee crisis. Newspapers and television bulletins were full of stories about the influx of a million people in Europe, fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East or Africa.

Now, an even bigger refugee crisis is unfolding, not in Europe but in Africa.  But it has had far less media coverage, and most people do not even know it is happening.  Uganda is now in the middle of the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis.  In the past 12 months, Uganda has taken in more than Greece, Turkey or any other country in the world at the height of last year's crisis in Europe.

Every day 2,000 people cross Uganda's borders. They are fleeing famine, drought, and violence. 6 million struggle to find food. This is the highest level of food insecurity the country has ever seen.  According to the UN: almost 276,000 people are estimated to be severely malnourished and in need of immediate life-saving aid.

The lack of access to clean water is also a major issue. It is the cause of death for most children. Since last December roughly two new refugee camps open up each month to accommodate the influx of people to the area. 

James Elder, from the UN children's agency UNICEF has said that Uganda has shown an extraordinarily progressive and open-door policy to refugees. So much so, many South Sudanese are expected to stay in Uganda indefinitely. What you won't see in the news is that the government won't even let local Ugandan's return to their land after their own 20-year war. Ugandan refugees are now squatting on land that belongs to the Ugandan government and now the government wants it back. This displaced hundreds of thousands of internal refugees while the influx of foreign refugees continues. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the country is now massively overstretched. UN agencies and NGOs are struggling to provide enough food, water, medicines and other services needed to sustain such a huge population. The Ugandan Government is seeking around $8 billion in humanitarian assistance.

“Uganda has continued to maintain open borders,” said Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s prime minister. “But this unprecedented mass influx is placing enormous strain on our public services and local infrastructure.” Feargal O’Connell, the regional director of the aid group Concern, “What’s needed is a durable peace so all refugees feel comfortable enough to return home.  What’s needed, though, in the short term is funding.”

This small African country about the size of Oregon is surrounded by conflict nations: Kenya, Sudan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. 

By the end of 2006, a war the world forgot about was coming to an end, but Northern Uganda was still reeling from the devastation that Kony and his Lords Resistance Army had wrought. The people of Northern Uganda, mostly the Acholi people were now left in Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDP camps). After over 20 years of survival, many of these people have no skills sets and no place to return "home" to. 

A group of them found their way to the Banda Ghetto outside of Kampala. Kids Inspiring Kids has been working with these people for over the past decade.  This crisis is a complicated one. There isn't an easy solution, but KIK is making a difference.  A lot of people are familiar with the viral video that explains the global issue of refugees.

Everyone has a different take on this. It is more of a statement of fact than a solution to the issues at hand, but there is something incredibly evident...even if you let all the refugees into other countries, it doesn't help the root issues or the people that currently reside in those other countries that are having to face the strain it puts on the host's economy.

Place of Refuge Village addresses a large section of these problems. It relocates internal refugees and resettles them onto land that has clear land title and sustainability. Having worked with the same people group for over ten years has allowed for the development of skills sets needed for SELF-sustainability. 

This solution will have a generational impact. This isn't about putting a band-aid on a problem and hoping it will just work itself out. This is about changing a nation. If you were to have asked the people group we work with ten years ago what their biggest dream was, it was to get out of Africa. They thought that maybe if they were just able to go to America or the UK THEN they could have a better life. Now, if you were to ask them they are hopeful about changing the world around them, right where they are. They want to make a better life for themselves and their family and they are excited about the Place of Refuge Village. It has been a complete mindset shift. They are now realizing they have everything they need to have a better life without having to get out of Africa. They are cautiously hopeful.

International governments are not always the solution and even more of an issue is how long legislation takes. There are better solutions it just requires a little creativity and less temporary solutions. Often times it is up to dedicated individuals and organizations dedicated to making a difference that can move seemingly immovable mountains.


Nikki Lynn