Uganda is one of the countries with the highest number of refugees in the world. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), there are nearly 1.4 million refugees in the country, including 225,000 coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Refugees live in settlements within host communities and have access to the same services available to Ugandan nationals.
The high rate of poverty among refugees and limited economic opportunities contribute to higher poverty levels in refugee-hosting areas, like the Rwamwanja refugee settlement, located in the Kamwenge District and home to approximately 77,000 Congolese refugees.
To improve food and nutrition security and self-reliance among extremely poor households in the Kamwenge refugee settlement and host communities, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Office of Food for Peace (FFP) awarded AVSI Foundation a $36,700,000 cooperative agreement to implement, in consortium with Trickle Up and IMPAQ International, the "Graduating to resilience" project from 2017-2024.
With this investment, USAID is signaling its commitment to the cutting edge and ambitious “Refugee and Host Population Empowerment (ReHope) Strategic Framework” led by the Government of Uganda and the United Nations, in partnership with the World Bank, donors and implementing partners. Officially launched in June 2017, ReHope is “a transformative strategy to bring together a wide range of stakeholders in a harmonized and cohesive manner to ensure more effective programming. It is a response to specific challenges faced in delivering protection and achieving social and economic development for both refugee and host communities.”
Over the next seven years, the AVSI Consortium will work with 13,200 households that are economically active but chronically unable to meet their basic needs without some form of assistance. Half of the households will be from the host district and the other half will be from the refugee community, taking into consideration each population’s unique needs. Households will be divided into two Cohorts, allowing for a rigorous evaluation to be carried out by an external evaluation firm. Each Cohort will participate in the "Graduating to resilience" project for 30 months.
At the United Nations on September 19, 2017, Honorable Oryem Henry Okello, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Republic of Uganda stated with conviction: “I was a refugee from Uganda when I was 11 years old. I know what it is to be a refugee, and half of the cabinet were refugees at some point. We need to avoid the risk of creating a dependency syndrome, and instead we need empowerment strategies to complement our policies about land, free movement, identification cards. Above all we need to tap into the skills and education of the refugees to benefit our own national development.”
The "Graduating to resilience" project provides an opportunity to test a combination of elements of the Graduation Approach, which enjoys a wide evidence base globally, for impact and cost-effectiveness, including an alternative which draws specifically on the conclusions from the uniquely Ugandan SCORE model, implemented by AVSI in other regions of Uganda 2011-2018.
AVSI’s past experience with the Graduation Approach in Uganda demonstrates the power of building pressure for improved services and policies, by working at the level of households and communities to increase knowledge and demand for services and appropriate policies