Gov’t urged to spread out refugees to save environment.

todayMarch 8, 2022

By Kennedy Inyakuni

The Minister of State for Environment, Ms. Beatrice Anywar Atim, has urged government to scatter refugees in various areas saying concentrating them in one place has led to environmental degradation. Ms. Anywar made the remarks while launching a new project dubbed ‘restoring and conserving degraded and fragile ecosystems for improved livelihoods among the refugees and host communities’ in Kampala yesterday.  Ms. Anywar, who represented the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, said Uganda has an open policy to refugees from other countries and UNHCR latest data as of August 31, shows that the country hosts 1.5 million of them.A similar call was made by Ms. Anywar on October 5 2021, in which she warned that the vegetation around settlements risks being depleted if the refugees continue to be settled in congested areas. The proposal was rejected by the government through the Office of the Prime Minister OPM.
Uganda has one of the most favorable refugee protection environments in the world, providing for freedom of movement, access to land for agriculture and settlement in line with the Refugee Act of 2006.

According to UNHCR, four out of five people who flee their homes rely on firewood for cooking and heating, which is a major cause of deforestation in most refugee settlements across the world. This, Anywar said this has caused a lot of degradation because there is pressure to collect firewood to cook food on daily bases. 
“This business of confining refugees in one place is not bad but let us look at the repercussion to the environment. Trees are being destroyed around these settlements and we believe if the refugees are spread out, they can be engaged in a number of productive activities and restore the forest cover quickly”, she said. 
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) representative, Ms. Caroline Adriaensen, said the project would ensure that refugees and host communities have access to alternative sources of cooking fuel and decrease the demand and utilization of natural resources within and around refugee settlements. 
Ms. Adriaensen added that the project aims at improving access to sufficient, healthier, sustainable, and alternative sources of energy, increased capacity to construct and maintain the decreased dependence on energy for unsustainable and unregulated sources for households. 

The EU has injected more than Shs37.2b in the fight against the increasing environmental and ecosystem degradation in West Nile Sub-region especially in the refugee hosting districts. The Save the Children country director, Ms. Dragana Strinic, said the project aims to achieve construction and distribution of 44,000 improved cooking stoves for vulnerable households and increase community awareness through installation and demonstration at institutions.” 
She added that through these programs, the key staff partners and volunteers will be trained on child protection including sexual exploitation and child abuse through child safeguarding policies.  The four-year project will be implemented in five districts Terego and Yumbe among others. 

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