Bordered by several of the largest refugee-generating countries in the world, Uganda hosts the largest population of refugees on the African continent. Since the 2016 crisis, between 600,000-800,000 South Sudanese refugees have made their way to Uganda, joined by large refugee populations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Somalia. Humanitarian needs are accordingly significant. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an anticipated 100,000 additional South Sudanese refugees are due to arrive this year. Accompanied by rapidly growing numbers of new arrivals from DRC, the need for humanitarian aid has only increased throughout 2018. Current population figures are being evaluated as part of a re-verification process by UNCHR and the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to assess the current number of refugees residing in settlements across Uganda. However, there remains a lack of information on refugee movements in and out of camps, especially to urban areas. Anecdotes of families relocating to cities including Arua are common, but formal figures on out-of-settlement populations are scant. Understanding these contexts is imperative for humanitarian actors to comprehensively respond to beneficiary needs. Uganda has also introduced among the most progressive refugee-hosting policies in the world, allowing freedom of movement, the right to work, and innovative assistance-sharing laws to integrate with host communities.
With 30 formal refugee settlements, 17 of which are centralised in the Adjumani region, and urban displaced people spread across the country, the crisis has implications for the capacity of the Ugandan government to provide services in settlement areas, as well as in urban locales. Many refugee families from the settlements have reportedly relocated to cities or their peripheries, but a lack of research hampers substantiating such claims. Understanding urban displacement dynamics in the country is therefore all the more important.