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Regional experts meet in Uganda over refugee self-reliance

Storyline:National News

Regional experts on Monday started a three-day meeting to devise means of improving the livelihood and self-reliance of refugees and host communities in eastern Africa.

A joint statement by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body, and the Ugandan government said the meeting is attended IGAD member states, humanitarian agencies, international financial institutions, the private sector, and refugee representatives.

“The meeting will look at a range of issues connected to the access of refugees and host communities to livelihood and economic opportunities including challenges accessing supporting services and functions,” the statement said.

It will also discuss barriers in the regulatory and policy environment preventing refugees and host communities to fully take advantage of available opportunities.

The meeting, according to the statement, will draw experience from Uganda’s refugee policy which allows refugees to work and also engage in other economic activities instead of entirely depending on humanitarian aid like in other countries.

The experts meeting preceded a one-day ministerial meeting scheduled for Thursday to which the experts will give a report about their deliberations.

Regional leaders in March 2017 through the Nairobi Declaration and Plan of Action committed their countries to promote self-reliance and economic resilience for refugees, returnees and host communities.

They agreed that with the support of the international community, they would enhance education, training and skills development for refugees to reduce their dependence on humanitarian assistance, and prepare them for gainful employment in host communities and upon return.

Uganda is one of the countries in eastern Africa that hosts the largest number of refugees in the region. According to UN figures, the country hosts about 1.2 million refugees with the biggest number coming from neighbouring South Sudan.

Other refugees in the country are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.