NAIROBI, In just one year, the population of refugees in Uganda has more than doubled from 500,000 to more than 1.25 million, making Uganda now host to the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world, a crisis which has also become a children's crisis, says the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef)/

In a statement to mark World Refugee Day on Tuesday, Unicef says that since violence erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, more than 1.8 million people from the world's youngest nation have crossed into neighbouring countries. More than 1,000 children continue to flee South Sudan on average everyday in search of safety.

More than one million children have been forced from their homes in South Sudan, often amid horrific violence, said Unicef's Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Pakkala. Day after day, week after week, they are being received by countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Despite great efforts on many fronts, the systems in these countries are tremendously stretched.

Ahead of Uganda's International Solidarity Summit on Refugees beginning Thursday, Unicef noted that 86 per cent of all refugees in Uganda are women and children. Indeed, Uganda is now Africa's leading refugee-hosting country, having jumped from the eighth largest refugee-hosting country in the world in mid-2016 to the third largest today, after Turkey and Pakistan.

The government of Uganda, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Unicef, the World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian partners on the ground are working tirelessly to respond to the more than 740,000 refugees who have arrived in Uganda since July 2016. Such dramatic numbers are placing excessive pressure on State and host community resources, especially social services which are critical to children's well-being.

The Ugandan government has a progressive and generous open-door policy to refugees, said Pakkala. This approach provides better prospects for refugee children in Uganda than in many contexts globally. The very real hope is that such a model is supported widely across countries.

The government of Uganda and the United Nations are appealing for 8.0 billion US dollars in funding for both emergency response and resilience interventions to Uganda's refugee and refugee-hosting population over the next four years.

Within this appeal, Unicef in Uganda requires nearly 50 million USD in 2017 as well as 30 million USD in each year from 2018 to 2020 to provide critical health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, early childhood development, adolescent development, and child protection interventions, to both refugee and host community children.

For Ethiopia and Kenya, as part of their Humanitarian Action for Children's Appeal for Ethiopia and Kenya, Unicef requires 13.6 million USD to respond to the new influx of South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia, and 7.3 million USD for the refugee response in Kenya.

On World Refugee Day, Unicef is also reiterating its call to governments to adopt its six-point agenda for action to protect refugee and migrant children and ensure their well-being, which was launched ahead of the G7 Summit in Italy in late May.

While refugee children in Uganda enjoy the full existing legal, physical and social protection system as the host population and use the same social services as them, UNICEF said more must be done to fully operationalize this agenda for action across the region, especially keeping families together, helping all uprooted children stay in school and stay healthy, and acting on the causes that force children to flee in the first place.


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