Uganda Solidarity Summit must prioritise South Sudanese child refugees
South Sudanese refugee children in the Bidi Bidi settlement in northern Uganda
World Vision is urging the international community to do more to prevent a children’s humanitarian crisis by supporting Uganda as it responds to those fleeing fighting in South Sudan.
The call for action comes as the UN and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni host the Uganda Solidarity Summit (22-23 June) as part of an effort to raise £6.3 billion and give the hidden crisis more visibility.
Around 60% of the more than 900,000 South Sudanese refugees who have fled to Uganda are children. Many are in great need, having experienced extreme brutality or seen loved ones killed. Scores of children arrive alone and live in extreme need every day.
World Vision’s response leader in Uganda said the summit was aimed at supporting Uganda which has one of the most progressive refugee hosting policies in the world but which was also struggling to cope with what was becoming a massive crisis for children.
“This summit is an amazing opportunity for the international community to abide by commitments it has made to share responsibility to host and care for refugees. If governments, humanitarian and development agencies and business leaders come together we can help children who have lost everything rebuild their lives and build a brighter future,” said Judy Moore, West Nile Refugee Response Director.
“We know from the Counting Pennies report that just 2 cents in every dollar of humanitarian aid goes to programmes targeted at protecting children from violence. Many vulnerable children I have met in Bidi Bidi have been terrified by what they have seen and are grieving the loss of parents and siblings. They need protection and support. This summit is an opportunity to prevent the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis becoming one where refugees face long-term need.”
Some 1.9 million South Sudanese have so far fled the country but the international aid response is only 16% funded.
“Uganda has is seen as a model refugee host nation because it welcomes and integrates refugees, allows them to stay, work and access education. Many ‘developed’ nations have constructed policies and barriers to actively keep refugees out. Uganda does not, but as a developing nation it does need international support to keep doing what is right,” said Ms. Moore.
More than 2,000 people have been crossing the border every day. World Vision staff working in the Bidi Bidi settlement are registering one hundred unaccompanied children every day, finding them foster families and providing follow-up care. Thousands of children have been found supportive homes with caring adults.
Children are also given places in “child friendly spaces” where they learn and play and where their emotional well-being can be monitored. So far, 52,000 children have accessed critical psycho-social support, but much more could be done with additional funding.