As we’re preparing to launch our program in the refugee camps in northern Uganda, we’re unpacking 3 Myths about Refugees:
Myth #1: Refugee = Emergency
Myth #2: There’s a Permanent Solution
Myth #3: Refugees only need aid
As we learned from Myth #1, most often refugee crises are more than emergencies—they are protracted crises. Thus, we need a long-term strategy to support refugees beyond the initial emergency. But what should that long-term strategy be?
Let’s start by taking a deeper look at what the research says about the existing, aid-based approaches for long-term displacement. According to research by the Humanitarian Innovation Project at Oxford:
“Existing approaches to protracted displacement are failing. They are inefficient, unsustainable, and lead to dependency…. The existing paradigm fails to adequately recognize that refugees and other displaced persons have talents, skills, and aspirations.”
The good news is that momentum is building toward market-based solutions for refugees that promote empowerment and recognize that refugees have skills, resources, and the ability to provide for themselves. Uganda is actually at the forefront of this shift. In their innovative approach, refugees are provided land to cultivate and the right to work.
The research affirms Uganda’s approach. First, it shows that Ugandan refugees are not economically isolated. In the marketplaces in the refugee camps, researchers have identified 70 different types of livelihood activities and report that 15% of refugee business owners surveyed even employed other refugees and Ugandans.
Second, the camps are connected to the larger Ugandan economy. In one camp, 45% of refugees surveyed reported that Ugandans were the largest customers for their business.
Finally, refugees want to work to support themselves and their families. Even though the majority of displaced people receive aid, 99% of refugees in Uganda have some form of independent strategy to support themselves beyond aid.
So what do you think? Which approach brings the most dignity and sustainability – handing out food indefinitely or empowering refugees to push past the emergency and build a life in the camps for as long as they may need? We think it’s the latter. And that’s why we’ve brought our savings program to Uganda to empower South Sudanese refugees to know Jesus, fight poverty, and build their lives again. Pastor Kenyi Joseph is rebuilding his life in the Adjumani refugee camp and he agrees. He says:
“In South Sudan many people had work and businesses. But when we ran we lost everything, we don’t have anything. If there is a way to get some capital to start a business that would be the best way to help us help our families.”
Your last paradigm shift is that refugees need more than emergency aid, they also need empowerment.
Joel Cox, our Director of Programs, was recently in Uganda. Here’s a program update: