Last Friday’s Refugee Solidarity summit attended by more than a dozen dignitaries from countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and North America, brought in pledges of $358.6m (Shs1.25 trillion), which although was praised by President Museveni and the UN Secretary General António Guterres as a good starting point, is still far less of the earlier intended goal by $1.6b (Shs5 trillion).
This, Mr Gutteres said, was in addition to “commitments of the World Bank and the African Development Bank in relation to the possibility of innovative funding to Uganda for different projects of different natures related not only to refugees but also with the host community.”
However, in the broader sense, the lukewarm response to Uganda’s solidarity with a refugee population of 1.277 million refugees out of which 950,000 are from South Sudan, is a reflection of the growing void in humanitarian aid funding for the South Sudan crisis partly as a result of the anemic global economy and other international crises on the continent and beyond that require funding as well.
A similar summit convened in Geneva, Switzerland in April to raise funding for the crisis in Yemen brought in pledges of only $1b out of $2b required. In February last year, at least $12b was pledged at a conference in London for Syrian refugees but the UN was recently crying foul at the slow pace of donors fulfillment.
A UNHCR report detailing funding, a copy of which this newspaper has seen, shows that UN agency for refugees had a general funding gap of $742.4m ( about Shs3 trillion) for dealing with the South Sudan crisis alone. At least $883.5m is needed in total yet as of May only $141.2m (Shs500b) in pledges had been received, representing only 16 per cent.
Because of the fresh fighting, according to the UN sources, some 6.1 million people – half of the population –are believed to be in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
More than 2.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, including more than 1.6 million people displaced internally. More than 300 people have been killed in the fighting.
Those displaced out of South Sudan are currently hosted in five countries, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, DR Congo, and Sudan. Besides UNHCR there are a dozen aid agencies working on the same crisis ostensibly relying on the same funders.
In Uganda only 18 per cent funding had been received to help those in need of urgent aid relief by May with a funding gap of 82 per cent or $299.9m (Shs1 trillion). In Central African Republic only 4 per cent funding had been received, in DR Congo 21 per cent, Ethiopia only 10 per cent, Sudan only 7 per cent while inside South Sudan operations had a funding gap of 83 per cent or $141.7m (Shs502b) still in pledges.
According to a breakdown of the contributions, which does not constitute official UNHCR financial reporting, the US contributed most with $95m (Shs336b), followed by the European Union, Japan, and Germany, among other countries.
Mr Guterres, who was last in Uganda in 2005 three days after being appointed commissioner of UNHCR to flag off repatriation of South Sudanese refugees after signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the nearly three decades war with Sudan, said sourcing for contributions needs to go on “and several of the countries today said they were not able to pledge now, but they will be announcing, in the next few weeks, additional amounts.”
“So I think we can congratulate Uganda and the President of Uganda, because this initiative is, in my opinion, a success,” he added.
However, while this also serves as a call for urgent action to end the war despite ongoing peddling of bureaucracy, Mr Guterres said all efforts will be left in the hands of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a seven-member regional bloc comprising countries in the Nile Valley, Great Lakes and Nile valley, to work it out.
“I think it is clear that we have now Igad, African Union and the UN totally aligned with the same very clear position. A very clear position regarding the need for the cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and the very clear position regarding the need of a comprehensive dialogue involving all the relevant parties to make sure that there is a peaceful picture in South Sudan,” he said.
Mr Gutteres and President Museveni, the co-conveners of the summit, nonetheless offered no definitive timeline to the ongoing peace process. Several speakers at the summit however, did not hide their impatience with the political crisis spiked by ethnic undercurrents and has now turned into a humanitarian crisis with civilians as targets, forcing thousands out their homes every day.
President Museveni, only revealed that he had been offered an extra-role by the South Sudan president Salva Kiir in the ongoing mediations with the SPLA opposition led by former vice president Salva Kiir, who is reportedly under house arrest in South Africa.
At the Igad extra-ordinary summit in the Ethiopia capital, Addis Ababa, early this month, member state heads of states directed army chiefs of Rwanda, Ethiopia and Kenya to convene urgently to fast-track an earlier proposed plan of deploying a neutral force to the country.
Currently, with more refugees flowing in, it is just a matter of time until another solidarity summit is called or else the glass ceiling will break.