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Children stand and pose for a picture in front of a red wall built by the IRC.
Legacy of war

Uganda Crisis Watch

The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to Ugandans who are rebuilding from decades of war while hosting a growing influx of refugees from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What's happening

  • Fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has driven over 11,000 Congloese refugees into Uganda, mostly women and children.

  • The IRC is assessing humanitarian needs and looking into preparing a response for new arrivals as the conflict continues.

  • Uganda is already hosting 1.5 million refugees, mainly from South Sudan and Congo.

Read our November 9 statement
Country facts
  • Population: 41.8 million
  • Number of refugees: 1.3 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 163 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Uganda: 1998
  • People assisted: Almost 1.2 million

Uganda crisis briefing

Uganda, located in East Africa, spent decades in the grip of violent conflict before becoming host to the third largest influx of refugees in Africa. The IRC helps vulnerable Ugandans recover from war and safely rebuild their communities.

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What caused the current crisis in Uganda?

In 1988, rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began terrorizing Uganda, killing tens of thousands and displacing more than 1 million people. Many Ugandans ended up living in camps that lacked food, clean water and sanitation. Thousands of children also fell victim to the war, abducted by rebel groups to serve as fighters.

Following a peace agreement in 2006, Ugandans have been working to rebuild their lives and restore their communities. A booming population, however, threatens to strain Uganda’s resources and halt this progress. 

Uganda is also host to over 1.3 million refugees. Most recently, the country has seen an influx of almost 1 million refugees from South Sudan, due to armed violence and political unrest since July 2016.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Uganda?

Uganda has some of the most progressive refugee policies of any nation, allowing freedom of movement and the right to work. Refugees need immediate protection, as well as safe communities with services that prevent and respond to violence and inform them of their rights.

Uganda also needs to make progress in improving maternal health and preventing and treating diseases. AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria are the leading causes of death, and are exacerbated by the refugee influx. Women’s health is especially poor; at least a third of women who survive childbirth are left with chronic and debilitating health conditions. 

As poverty continues to spread and natural disasters such as drought and floods threaten people’s homes and livelihoods, Uganda’s resources are quickly being overwhelmed.

How does the IRC help in Uganda?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

We first began working in Uganda in 1998 to help the 1.8 million Ugandans who had been forced to flee their homes as a result of the LRA conflict. We have been committed to protecting women and children from violence and exploitation, and helping communities rebuild. As a growing number of South Sudanese refugees fled to Uganda, we also began working in two of the main settlements hosting them.

As the country struggles to recover from the effects of war and host a growing population of refugees, the IRC is focusing our efforts in the Adjumani and Kiryandongo districts as well as the Acholi and Karamoja sub-regions by:

  • providing women with resources and services to assure their safety, health and financial independence;
  • helping farmers and small-business owners succeed, linking them to markets and credit for their businesses;
  • teaching youth business skills, linking them to apprenticeship opportunities and providing them with seed grants for business initiatives;
  • providing medical equipment, training health care workers, and educating communities to improve sanitation;
  • teaching local community members to diagnose and treat common illnesses and make referrals to health centers;
  • ensuring all children are immunized, by deploying new mobile app technologies and community engagement strategies.

We have also been assisting evacuees from Afghanistan during their temporary stay in Uganda, complementing the efforts of the Ugandan government and the U.S. Embassy with reception, accomodation, health care and general welfare services.

What still needs to be done?

The IRC’s work in Uganda is more critical than ever as Ugandans remain vulnerable to disaster and conflict, and refugees continue to seek safety in the country. We pledge to put the needs of those most affected by crisis, specifically women and girls, at the forefront of our efforts and to achieve measurable improvements in health, safety, power and economic wellbeing.

For  a closer look at some of the work we will be doing over the next year, read our Uganda strategy action plan

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