World Humanitarian Day 2020 in Uganda

In Uganda, in a move to promote localization, the Charter for Change working group conducted a series of interrelated activities in what is popularly known as the “Humanitarian Week. This was to majorly amplify the discussion on localization into the public domain and bring to the attention of INGOs, UN Agencies and Donors in Uganda as to why localization is important for all those involved in Humanitarian Action. The climax of these weeklong activities was localization dialogues by different members of the Charter 4 Change Working Group Word Humanitarian Day.   As part of the C4C Uganda, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda supported other platforms to hold the same discussion at the subnational level while the National Humanitarian Platform also participated in a radio talk-show that explained what localization is and what the reality is in the case of Uganda.

COVID-19 Response in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement

Uganda is currently home to more than 1,310,000 refugees, of whom approximately 835,000 come from South Sudan, 365,000 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the remainder from other countries. The Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement divided into six zones between of  Ocea, Siripi, Eden, Tika, Odubu, and Ofua hosts an estimated population of 86,975 as of June 2017 statistics representing 22,983 households with 17% of this population representing the host community. 80.6% South Sudanese, 17.7% Ugandan citizens, and 1.7% other nationalities

With the prevalence of Covid-19 pandemic around the world, it is no doubt that such areas as refugee camps and settlements are high risk areas. In response to the situation refugee led organisations have come together to ensure that the community takes full preventive measures in accordance to the Ministry of Health guidelines. This has been done through the 3 months Refugee Emergency Response on COVID-19 Project by the Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT).

The 3 months’ project is aimed at enhancing Risk Communication, Community Engagement & Infection prevention and control in combating COVID-19 by addressing KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDE and PRACTICE of refugees and host communities as they respond to the pandemic. Some of the activities so far done is conducting road drive public system communication to sensitise communities about Covid-19, Installation of 90 Handwashing stations in communal centers in Rhino Camp, Provision of Airtime credit to refugees leaders to be able to communicate any emergencies, Distribution of soap through door to door using Village Health Teams and disseminating translated IEC materials languages used in the Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement.

John Jal Dak

Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT) 

COVID-19 Response in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement

Uganda is currently home to more than 1,310,000 refugees, of whom approximately 835,000 come from South Sudan, 365,000 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the remainder from other countries. The Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement divided into six zones between of  Ocea, Siripi, Eden, Tika, Odubu, and Ofua hosts an estimated population of 86,975 as of June 2017 statistics representing 22,983 households with 17% of this population representing the host community. 80.6% South Sudanese, 17.7% Ugandan citizens, and 1.7% other nationalities

With the prevalence of Covid-19 pandemic around the world, it is no doubt that such areas as refugee camps and settlements are high risk areas. In response to the situation refugee led organisations have come together to ensure that the community takes full preventive measures in accordance to the Ministry of Health guidelines. This has been done through the 3 months Refugee Emergency Response on COVID-19 Project by the Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT).

The 3 months’ project is aimed at enhancing Risk Communication, Community Engagement & Infection prevention and control in combating COVID-19 by addressing KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDE and PRACTICE of refugees and host communities as they respond to the pandemic. Some of the activities so far done is conducting road drive public system communication to sensitise communities about Covid-19, Installation of 90 Handwashing stations in communal centers in Rhino Camp, Provision of Airtime credit to refugees leaders to be able to communicate any emergencies, Distribution of soap through door to door using Village Health Teams and disseminating translated IEC materials languages used in the Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement.

John Jal Dak

Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT) 

Civil Society Organisations in Uganda to partner with the Government to respond to COVID 19

Hosting the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda, Uganda National NGO Forum represents civil society on the National Covid 19 Technical taskforce spearheaded by the Office of the prime Minister. In this regard, civil society led by the Uganda National NGO Forum has been holding a series of virtual meetings in an effort to contribute to the government cause to respond to Corona Virus Pandemic in Uganda. In the first engagement, civil Society pledged to support the government by offering expertise in the areas of emergency response, return to normality and impact mitigation and the post Covid 19 development phase. As a result, the Office of the Prime Minister requested CSOs to have a comprehensive CSO response plan.

In response to the formation of a comprehensive CSO response plan, actions so far taken include a matrix sent to all civil society organisations detailing the mode of response as an institution at all levels, Development of the CSO Thematic Response notes to guide the operation of thematic groups (Emergency Response Team, Advocacy and Policy Engagement Team, Citizen Engagement Team; and Coordination and Representation Team),  a call to volunteer to be part of these thematic groups is out; and apart from being represented on the National Technical Taskforce,- efforts to have civil society represented on other taskforces such as Health are underway; lastly, a call to establish a CSO Covid fund is also out with bank details and mobile money contacts for all well-wishers to make a contribution to ensure that the Covid 19 situation in the country is managed.

Don’t forget to fill in the Matrix shared here.  

#StandwithUganda: The details of the account and mobile money for the CSO Fund are: 

Bank Account Details

Account Name: Uganda National NGO Forum

Account Number: 0108212045101

Bank: Standard Chartered Bank Uganda Limited

Branch: Forest Mall

Mobile Number Details

Number: 0782 – 142551

Registered Name: Rashidah Namatovu

#StaySafe

The power of Advocacy and Documentation: how far can we go?

Despite investing more than a decade and millions of dollars in capacity building, governments and other humanitarian actors still face significant capacity challenges in order to effectively manage humanitarian response. key among these challenges include the short-term, ad-hoc and disconnected nature of the training agenda, aggravated by lack of a systematic, sector wide, capacity needs assessment and strategic capability strategy and training/education framework. As such; June 2018, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda undertook a Capacity Needs Assessment to establish the core strengths and weaknesses of the local and national organizations to prepare and respond to the humanitarian needs for the affected communities in Uganda. According to the report, only 37% of the CSOs assessed were functioning well on the component of networking, coordination and advocacy in relation to humanitarian emergency response forming the baseline for the capacity development training.

Advocacy

On 3rd December 2018, the Humanitarian Platform opened the 2 days capacity development training at Esella Country Hotel, Kampala; with ‘advocacy’ as one of the areas still weak in the humanitarian sector, most especially in Uganda. This training featured over 30 members of the Humanitarian Platform who initially scored relatively low during the Capacity Needs assessment carried out by the platform.  According to what has been noted over the years, the topic of advocacy has been biased and perceived to be a “fight back” tool especially between civil society organizations and government entities due to the pressure to account. However, it also important to note that projects which involve people affected by policy change in developing, implementing and monitoring advocacy work are more likely to achieve concrete change on the ground due to effective advocacy.

With the support from professional facilitators, members were taken through intense yet participatory hand on exercises which included experience sharing, brainstorming, open forum discussions and references of the real life scenarios in the Uganda context. During the advocacy training, participants were taken through the legal and institutional framework for advocacy and humanitarian and; where they generate the mandate to conduct advocacy. It’s very important to understand the kind of issues one is intending to advocate for. Participants were taught to differentiate between humanitarian concepts like disaster, hazard, emergency and risk, a mistake many have made and continuously make.  In addition, participants were taught to differentiate between advocacy, lobbying and activism to avoid using them interchangeably.

Documentation

On 4th December 2018, participants were taken through one of the most imperative blocks not only of advocacy but also other project/ programme areas like fundraising, reporting, storytelling among others. It is important to note that how one tells their story is what determines the perception or image from the external environment.   Documentation is broad and to mention but a few, entails reporting on activities and achieving the visual attention from various stakeholders, how to tailor messages for different audiences, video documentation, photography, organizational branding/ profiling and other avenues of documentation that bring about effective change in society such as policy briefs, issues papers, data among others. While local humanitarian actors continuously transform the lives of marginalized populations through their work, telling the story of this invaluable work to the world, remains a big challenge.

As such participants were taken through the winning power of writing for change, understanding the important formats of documenting, tailoring the message for different audiences. Participants had a knowledge café that involves grouping participants and having them rotate around different humanitarian communication products and answering questions on their importance to improving beneficiary livelihoods.

From the documentation session, participants were able to construct success stories which will be featured in the quarterly newsletters. According to the end of training evaluation, participants appreciated the opportunity and recommended that the Humanitarian Platform should extent this support to regional platforms and allocate more time; partner with INGOs to conduct exchange visits intended to enhance capacity among members of the platform; follow up on members trained and continuously hold refresher trainings to be able to realize the impact.  At end of the 2 days capacity development training, participants were able to link advocacy and documentation; and further deeply understand how, where, why and when the two concepts are applied.

Therefore with the recommendations aforementioned considered, the Humanitarian Platform will be able to support all the local and national NGOs to influence the Humanitarian Agenda.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

Humanitarian Platform to Mark One Year

It is such an important milestone to mark in the humanitarian sector in Uganda, most especially the local and national organisations celebrating the first year of working together as a collective. The Humanitarian Platform was launched on 7th March 2018 by the Minister of Disaster Preparedness Relief and Refugees, Hon. Eng Hilary Onek. The platform has within a relatively short time registered imperative footsteps with the guidance of a passionate and committed steering committee. The Humanitarian Platform Steering Committee includes, CAFOMI, DRT, InterAid Uganda, LIPRO Uganda, Uganda Red Cross Society, TPO Uganda, Legal Aid Clinic, DENIVA, CEFORD, URDMC, AWYAD, OXFAM Uganda and Uganda National NGO Forum.

On 5th December 2018, the platform held the end of year steering committee meeting to reflect, take note of the challenges, consolidate key lessons and look out for opportunities to strengthen the platform. During this meeting, the platform committee was privileged to host Anna Maria Leichtfried, Lezlie Velez and Michael Nabugere, all from the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) Secretariat, Office of the Prime Minister.  The team presented the CRRF roadmap which was launched in 2017 and adopted in January 2018 during the 2nd CRRF steering committee meeting as one of the opportunities the platform can tap into to influence the humanitarian agenda. Most importantly, this was to begin a fundamental conversation between the CRRF secretariat and the Humanitarian Platform; understanding the role of the local and national organisations in the CRRF roadmap 2018/2020; and ensuring that the efforts of the local and national organisations are strategically intentional to Humanitarian response.

During the steering committee meeting, members also agreed that the platform further describes its structure more strategically and where it’s heading not forgetting the exit strategy by putting into place a proper strategic plan. The platform to step up and engage in policy development and advocacy, but most importantly to prove intentional relevancy and point of reference in the humanitarian sector and as a point of reference

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

Contingency or Disaster Preparedness Fund; What strategy should Uganda Adopt?

“We cannot resurrect people with money; financing should be before and not after the disaster…” Hon. Martin Owor, Commissioner Department of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Management Office of the Prime Minister during the dialogue

Defining the word contingency will direct you to a common understanding as a future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty. The topic of having a contingency fund to respond to emergencies, most especially disasters, has been the same talk year in year, out landing on seemingly deaf ears.

The 2016 World Disasters Report indicates that a total of 1,244 people were killed by disasters between the period 2006 and 2015 in Uganda. Over the same period, 4,345,797 people were affected by disasters, representing an 11% increase from the number of those affected in the preceding reference period of 1993 – 2005.

Supported by OXFAM, on 24th October 2018, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) in partnership with the Humanitarian platform for Local and National Organizations in Uganda held a dialogue that sought to create space to have an in-depth discussion on the issue of Disaster Preparedness, Mitigation and Prevention in Uganda. Who is not playing their role and what is the way forward, is it lack of political will or coordination issue amongst government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, Should the government empower the Uganda Red Cross Society to coordinate disaster related interventions. This dialogue attracted over 50 participants who included Members of Parliament, OPM, Local Government officials, Civil Society Organizations, Academia and Media

“If we agree and are on the same page at level of identifying the problem, we will get to the solution and implement it on the same page, George Francis Iwa, Chairperson Humanitarian Platform in his remarks during the dialogue”

The Commissioner, Hon. Martin Owor, informed participants that much as the government is mandated to finance these disasters, citizens at the individual level should take precautionary measures, report any unusual signs or risks in their areas. He however decried the manner in which the government responds to disaster issues. He said that the Office of the Prime Minister has done their part, the team has carried out hazard mapping and profiling and completed the resettlement plan together with experts, however the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development is not releasing funds to implement this plan,

this year we have had 66 landslides in Uganda and next year in June, we will have more landslides in Bududa according to the meteorologists, so the government should be working out this financing issue today, Deputy CAO Bududa district, at the dialogue”.

Is it absence of frameworks or lack of harmonization which has created a gap in the implementation?

The National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management designates the Department of disaster Preparedness and Management under the Office of Prime Minister as the lead agency responsible for disaster preparedness and management. However, while the department coordinates all the MDAs in the DRR sector, mitigation and prevention is primarily undertaken by other MDAs in the DRR sector which has implications on the financing of disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation.

The limited funding or lack thereof at Local Government level directed towards disaster management, preparedness and prevention renders the implementation of the District Contingency Plans highly improbable.

The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) establishes a Contingencies Fund in section 26. The Contingencies Fund make provision for the allocation of funds where urgent and unforeseen needs have arisen and it is in the public interest that funds should be provided to meet the need. From the above it can thus be argued that the PFMA, through the Contingencies Fund makes ample provision for funds in the event of a disaster occurring. Section 26, however, is silent on the use of the Fund for disaster risk reduction purposes. This is one area which might need more attention in a new disaster risk reduction and management bill.

What are the recommendations participants raised

“The government must be at the centre of this process, then other stakeholders complement. Hon. Lyandro Komakech, Parliamentary Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction, in his closing remarks”

As the discussions heated up raising emotions, a number of suggestions were brought to table for all stakeholders as mentioned in the Sendai Framework to which the government of Uganda is signatory, to rise and walk the talk. The government to ensure that the contingency fund is visible, tangible and accessible to mitigate disaster risks; the private sector to get involved because at the end of the day these disasters affect the economic performance of the country, Civil Society Organisations to contribute to the knowledge base, support public awareness and lead on advocacy, put pressure on decision makers to play their role , the government to domesticate the Kampala Convention formerly the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and lastly citizens to respect the laws that govern nature.

“If you don’t belong to the river then don’t be in the river; if you don’t belong to the swamp then don’t live in the swamp”.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

The Plight of Female Urban Refugees – Outcome document

As part of the Annual National Youth Festival that took place on 11th August 2018 at Makerere University, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations held a session dubbed the Plight of Female Urban Refugees.  This was to contribute to the ongoing discussions about the fate of urban refugees in Uganda, with more focus on female refugees. The outcome document highlights the issues that affect the female urban refugees and what works to address the issues in their particular setting.

To download the outcome document please click here

Urgent Action Needed – District Level Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Still Low

‘Uganda is spending the bulk of its budget managing and responding to disasters instead of managing and reducing risks’ Sophie Nampewo, CSBAG, Learning Event Mbale 2018.

Globally, disasters are on the increase as a result of natural hazards, political unrest and economic hardships. Subsequently, this has greatly contributed to increased poverty, food insecurity, and social disintegration especially in drought and flood prone areas. In the recent past, a number of global frameworks have been developed for disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted in Japan in March 2015, provides general guidance for reducing risks from natural hazards.

The Agenda 2030 further recognizes and reaffirms   the urgent need to reduce the risk of disasters. At national level, The Government of Uganda has demonstrated a commitment towards disaster risk reduction as indicated in its various legal, policy and planning and institutional frameworks like the Second National Development Plan, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Policy. There are bills in the pipeline for approval such as the Disaster Management Bill Climate Change Policy, Wetland Bill for sustainable Ecosystem. However, amidst all these policies, how have the victims or communities in disaster prone areas been involved? Is their need for a 50 page wordy document with the language they can hardly articulate?

“With the inevitable continued population growth rate, Uganda and the entire world will continuously be prone to disasters…” Johnson Kagugube, DRT, Learning Event, Mbale 2018.

On 25th September 2018, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda held a Learning Event focusing on Strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction and Management at district level, in Mbale District. The event was timely and located strategically – Eastern Uganda is recognised as the most disaster prone region. The Learning Event attracted humanitarian actors in the region such as the Uganda Red Cross Society, the District Disaster Management Technical Committee heads & other Local Government leaders, Community Based Organisations, media and Civil Society Organisations who hailed from the districts of Manafwa, Bududa, Sironko, Bulambuli, Butalleja and Mbale.

There are no funds to facilitate and capacitate the District Disaster Management Technical Committees to integrate DRR into the district plans, as a result they event don’t meet, they are dormant…” Local Government respondent, Learning Event, Mbale 2018.

From the discussions, it was found out that actually the government is financing relief for victims way more than prevention or preparedness, according to the study carried out by CSBAG. The Outturns overshot the budgeted allocations in FY2016/17 with a supplementary budget of UGX 25bn directed to the provision of relief to disaster victims. This raised concern among participants most especially the Local Government leadership who just hear but never get hold of any funds to facilitate contingency planning at the district level. Issues around political sabotage kept rising as the reason improper practices persist affecting several interventions from progressing.

However, this does not mean that the Government is not doing a great job. The problem is failure to diversify different target groups for different interventions. As Uganda realigns it’s spending towards risk management and reduction, Local Governments are best placed to spearhead this under the auspices of the OPM. Funding should therefore be directed to them to fulfil this mandate through a Forecast Based Financing Mechanism of disaster risk management and reduction. This therefore calls out for coordination between the state and other non-state actors to collectively focus on addressing these underlying issues together for benefit of the citizens.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

The Humanitarian Platform to maximize opportunities at national, regional and global levels

The Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations is mandated to hold monthly meetings to strengthen the coordination, review progress on various platform undertakings, identify areas of synergy and plan on participating in different spaces at national, regional and international level.  On 16th August 2018, the platform held a steering committee meeting at NGO Forum Offices and in attendance was TPO Uganda, CAFOMI, DENIVA, LIPRO Uganda, DRT, Uganda National NGO Forum and OXFAM.

Some of the issues discussed hinged around platform membership composition to match the ongoing UNHCR Inter-agency coordination mechanism, issues around participating in the Grand Bargain (GB) work stream platforms with other networks; and mobilization of resources to support the Humanitarian Platform. The platform secretariat intends to organize members into sectors according to the Refugee Response Plan 2019/2020 to be able to widen the scope of participation of the local and national actors in the humanitarian response. From the discussion, the platform will establish ways of acquiring and sustaining funding through a self-assessment process by identifying issues affecting the platform, strengths and gaps where capacity is needed and have an issues paper that can be presented on various influential platforms. This is to ensure the local actors build the muscle to be front bearers of the localization agenda rather than the international community. There was a question on how the platform can participate or link with the discussions at the global level; and the Chair, Mr George Francis Iwa was tasked to map out those different upcoming global events where the platform can either send participants or organize side events to feed into the same. On that note, the platform plans to organise a side event alongside the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 73) in September 2018.

By Clare Kyasiimire