Discussing Uganda’s comprehensive and progressive refugee response


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Uganda is the largest refugee hosting country in Africa and third largest in the world. While the history of refugee hosting dates back to the 1960s, Uganda has experienced a continuous and massive influx of refugees largely from the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Burundi since 2016. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of late October 2019, Uganda is hosting approximately 1.35 million refugees.

Credited for implementing one of the most progressive refugee policy regimes in the world, the Government of Uganda provides refugees freedom of movement and employment, and access to basic services offered by the national systems.  In Uganda, a majority of refugees face protracted displacement and reside in settlements located predominantly in Uganda’s poorest districts.

Therefore, by sustaining this open-door asylum policy and development-oriented model, the government is faced with the challenges of delivering services, the negative impacts on the environment, and limited administrative capacities at the national and district levels. Furthermore, there are sometimes social risks associated with a large influx of refugees, including gender-based violence and violence against children.

In response to these challenges, the Government of Uganda launched a US$ 500 million developmental response program to address forced displacement impacts complementing the humanitarian response. And the World Bank is helping to meet those challenges as well with their support with the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project which tackles improvements in access to basic services (health, education, water and sanitation), expansion of economic opportunities, enhancement of environmental management and in the 11 refugee hosting districts.

In addition, the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development Project is sharing tools with eight district local governments hosting refugees on how to handle service delivery challenges; promote investment; socio economic development; planning, land tenure security and small-scale infrastructure investments targeting both refugees and the host community.


Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Former Regional Director, Africa, Sustainable Development Practice Group

Varalakshmi Vemuru

Practice Manager, Social Sustainability and Inclusion Global Practice

Margarita Puerto

Social Development Specialist, World Bank

Join the Conversation

Kennan W Rapp
January 31, 2020

Thanks for this super informative blog post. Both on the policy side and, more recently, in terms of developmental interventions, Uganda is showing it can be a leader in the management of refugee issues!

Varalakshmi Vemuru
February 10, 2020

Thanks Kenn! The World Bank is partnering with Uganda on the development response to refugee hosting - nearly the 1.4 million refugees.

Janet Mancini Billson
January 31, 2020

Thanks for this posting, Ede. I am almost finished a major cross-cultural study of refugee resettlement and integration in Canada (Bhutanese, Kurds, Liberians, Vietnamese, Syrians, Rohingya, and Columbians--all from different periods in history). I heard about the Uganda approach and would like to receive more information, as I am writing a final chapter of the book that focuses specifically on policies that can facilitate refugee integration (economic and social). Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Janet (Director, Group Dimensions International; retired professor, George Washington U.) The book is REFUGEES IN THE CANADIAN MOSAIC: THE JOURNEY TO RESETTLEMENT AND HOPE, forthcoming, Lexington Books, 2020

Varalakshmi Vemuru
February 10, 2020

thanks Janet. I am sharing the link to the report we did on the social and economic implication of Uganda's progressive refugee policies https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/24736; hope this is useful. best, Vara