A wet start to the day couldn't dampen spirits at Kyangwali refugee settlement for Uganda's official World Refugee Day celebrations on Friday 20 June.
More than two-thousand people, among them special guests representing the President, Prime Minister, King of Bunyoro, United Nations bodies, implementing partners and stakeholders from around the country, gathered together to salute the courage, strength and resilience of refugees who are forced to flee their homes from violence.
The Minister of State for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, the Hon Musa Ecweru, said that governments and NGOs must work together to respond to the increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced people around the globe.
“I was once a refugee and today I am a Minister”
“There are 410,000 refugees living in Uganda today, the majority from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan,” he said.
“We live in a world that is increasingly characterised by wars and disasters. This demands action from all governments and actors. We must decide new strategies, develop new tools and build new capacities to respond to these challenges.”
“It is all of our responsibility to keep hope alive.”
AAH Uganda is UNHCR’s main implementing partner in Kyangwali for services including health, education, community services, water, sanitation and hygiene, environment and livelihoods.
AAH Uganda Country Director, Dr Nelson Wajja-Musukwe, said he recognised the terrible impact of conflict, particularly on families, and is committed to serving communities through programmes that help refugees move from dependence on food aid towards long term self-reliance.
“AAH Uganda looks beyond crisis to how to support refugees with new skills and knowledge that will improve their livelihoods,” said Dr Wajja.
“We thank the refugees of Kyangwali for working together with us to build a sustainable future for themselves and their families.”
The number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has exceeded 50 million for the first time since after World War II with worsening conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic contributing to major new displacements, according to the UNHCR’s Global Trends report released on World Refugee Day.
“Thirty-one per cent of refugees currently in Uganda are under 18 years of age. It is important to engage them in building life skills and employment opportunities,” said UNHCR’s deputy representative in Uganda, Sakura Atsumi, speaking at the event.
AAH Uganda recently received funding from Australian Red Cross to begin a carpentry training workshop for refugee youth living in Kyangwali. This and other programmes like tailoring and computer classes are offering much needed opportunities for young school leavers in the settlement but demand for places currently far exceeds funding.
Closing out the World Refugee Day event, Minister Ecweru delivered this message of hope to the refugees: “I was once a refugee and today I am a Minister. I want your children to be educated so that they will be leaders in your country.”