The summit on Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons in Africa continues

The 32nd African Union summit began on 10 February, with the theme ‘Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons.’ Emphasis is on the Nairobi Action Plan, a declaration that was passed in 2018 and called on African host countries to take better care of refugees in their country.

East Africa currently hosts close to 5 million refugees from around Africa. Heads of State from East African countries are presenting their progress reports on the Nairobi Action Plan. Under the plan, host African countries are expected to improve conditions not just for the refugees but also for the host communities. 

Areas to be improved include shelter, education, jobs, health care and integration amongst communities. The host countries are expected to help refugees become self-reliant, not just by education, but by creating opportunities for business within their communities. 

Progress is being made and Ethiopia is an excellent example of a country that has taken heed of the Nairobi Action Plan. In January this year, Ethiopia passed a new law, granting permission to their almost one million refugees to live outside the refugee camps, to attend schools, to formally register births, marriages and deaths, and most importantly, to work. Refugees in Ethiopia are also able to legally have access to banking accounts, something which was a huge problem in the past. 

Ethiopia has also made 10 thousand hectares of land available for refugees, in the Ogaden region, encouraging further self-reliance. Refugees come from war-torn African countries, such as Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. There are 20 refugee camps in Ethiopia.

Uganda, home to 1.1 million refugees, has also managed their refugee programs with aplomb. The country has further included plans for refugee access to health, education and water in the national budget.

Kenya, home to almost half a million refugees from Somalia and South Sudan, has implemented Guidelines on Admission of Non-Citizens to institutions of basic education and training.  Djibouti provides education for refugees and has an ‘open door policy’ that encourages freedom of movement.

Ultimately, the idea would be to help refugees return home, but only when governments are stable and can guarantee the safety of refugees. Meanwhile, host African countries are expected to help the displaced, though lack of funding will continue to be a problem. The UNHCR does provide funding, however, money is limited and resources are not overflowing.