Oxfam Calls For Increased Local and National Actor Involvement In Responding To Uganda's Humanitarian Crises

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Oxfam in Uganda has today launched an innovative project entitled Empowering Local and National Humanitarian Actors (ELNHA) that aims at strengthening the capacity of local and national humanitarian actors to take lead in Uganda’s humanitarian response. The project is premised on a study titled Fresh analysis of the Uganda humanitarian capacity, which involved a number of national actors including relevant government ministries, INGOs, private sector as well as a number of stakeholders across 7 districts. The study highlighted the fact that international actors dominate the humanitarian scene and there is need for all stakeholders, both local and international, to draw a plan that will actively involve more local and national actors in humanitarian planning, readiness and preparedness as well as to provide affordable and more sustainable humanitarian response.

The ELNHA project launch also comes at the back drop of an influx of South Sudan refugees to West Nile in the North western part of Uganda as fresh fighting broke out in July this year. With up to 6000 refugees coming into Uganda every day and up to 150,000 expected by the end of the year, the South Sudanese response is overstretched and underfunded. Humanitarian actors, many of them international, are struggling to give basics like clean water, food, health services as well as providing protection to the vulnerable such as women and children who form 97 percent of the refugees. This under -reported crisis highlights the need to empower local humanitarian actors who have local knowledge and understand the context of the crisis and can deliver more timely and cost effective assistance.

This is by no means the only crisis. Uganda hosts a total of over 500,000 refugees from neighboring DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda among others. Floods, landslides, drought, unpredictable weather patterns that affect small holder farmers and one of the highest population growth rates in the world are some of Uganda’s humanitarian crises.

Peter Kamalingin, Country Director Oxfam in Uganda noted that ‘Over the last 3-4 years, Oxfam in Uganda invested in pilot humanitarian capacity building for 15 local and national organizations across different parts of Uganda. Those partners, working closely with Oxfam have been very helpful in delivering timely and quality humanitarian services to people in need including during the influx of refugees from DRC in 2012/13, the influx of South Sudanese refugees since Dec 2013 to date. On the basis of this pilots here in Uganda as well as in many other parts of the world where Oxfam works, Oxfam designed a three year project to take this approach to scale and especially to bring on board more partners and stakeholders including national governments and institutions, local governments, International NGOs, local NGOs, private sector, and donors.

ELNHA, a three-year project funded by IKEA Foundation in Netherlands envisages that by the end of 2018, local and national humanitarian actors will have the capacity to design, deliver and lead in humanitarian preparedness and response in Uganda. Also, these actors will have the space and power to influence the humanitarian agenda in the country while large international donors will have tailored their policies; strategies and systems to enable local and national humanitarian actors lead in response and preparedness.

Mr. Kamalingin observed; “We all now realize that relying on international humanitarian actors alone is not sustainable, especially considering the shrinking basket of funds in the face of increasing frequency and complexity of natural and manmade disasters in different parts of the world. The world is fatigued and overstretched and it is time to invest in and hand the mantle of humanitarian planning, preparedness and response back to the local people.” Kamalingin further added that the ELNHA program fits into Oxfam International’s Strategic Plan and vision for 2020 which whose ambition is to make sure national state institutions and civil society, with support from the international institutions, are supported to provide quality, impartial and independent assistance and strengthen the resilience of those in conflict or facing natural disasters.

Launching the ELNHA project on behalf of the Prime Minister of Uganda, The Minister in Charge of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon Mary Karooro Okurut highlighted Uganda’s progressive refugee policies to guide disaster preparedness and response such as the “national policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management -2010. As government, we appreciate effective humanitarian preparedness and response requires a multi stakeholder approach, which is why as government, we applaud this convening role that Oxfam has adopted. The ELNHA project clearly compliments government policy. She called upon humanitarian actors to emulate this example and dedicate more resources to local humanitarian actors such as NGOs, private sector, national and local government. Already, 51% of Oxfam in Uganda humanitarian funding passes through local humanitarian actors.

Hon. Karooro added that while the government recognizes the financial and technical support that UN Agencies and International NGO’s have accorded Uganda during humanitarian crises, local and national humanitarian actors can greatly contribute to bridging the financial and technical humanitarian gap and challenges as it is more efficient, cost effective and sustainable.

‘Local and national actors have a deep understanding of the context and the needs of the communities since they work closely with them and are able to link the short-term humanitarian assistance with long-term development towards building resilient communities.’

Hon Karooro however cautioned that transforming the potential of Local and National Actors into reality needs robust and overt steps aimed at building their capacity to include: Financial support, training on the technicalities of emergency interventions and institutionalized and systematic inclusion of local actors.

Kamalingin concluded by explaining that Oxfam aims to see a shift of power, resources and capabilities towards Local or National Humanitarian Actors such as national or local government and the civil society. In this regard therefore, Oxfam is implementing the ELNHA project in two countries including Bangladesh to mobilize national/local actors as well as other international actors to work together and produce a plan for the transformation of the international humanitarian system but also working closely with the government to push for policies and practices that encourage adoption of such approaches.

Notes to editors: 

Some of the recommendations from the HUCOCA report include;

  1. All actors should participate in a rethinking process of the humanitarian work in Uganda, in order to maximise the strengthening and utilisation of local / national capacities for higher effectiveness and sustainability of humanitarian preparedness and response.
  2. All actors should mainstream disaster risk reduction strategies into their programs.
  3. All humanitarian actors should strengthen the collaboration with a broad range of civil society actors (including CBOs, faith-based organisations, media, and academics) and private sector organisations committed to humanitarian values and principles. This openness will facilitate the mobilisation of more resources and will increase the humanitarian geographical coverage across all disaster-prone communities in the country.
  4. Building the capacity of local actors at district level should be a key principle. All humanitarian actors should engage themselves in staffing and training human resources devoted to development and humanitarian work at local level.
  5. Development/humanitarian workers should have access to humanitarian training to improve skills and promote knowledge development, both at district level (on-line training) and at national level.
  6. Sector working/learning groups at district and national level should be the spaces to reflect learning, share best practices and inform policy making.
  7. The coordination of the humanitarian work between the district and the national level should be based on a Local Humanitarian Information System and agreed procedures to share plans and learning in humanitarian strategies.
  8. Innovative approaches are needed to support the active participation of CBOs and faith-based organisations that are deeply rooted and connected to the local communities.
  9. All humanitarian actors should encourage a more prominent role of competent local/national NGO in humanitarian coordination spaces.

Humanitarian actors in Uganda are of several types to include:

  • The International non-governmental organizations, the United Nation Agencies, the local humanitarian actors inclusive of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Faith based organizations and Community-based organizations; and Central and Local Government that in most cases also coordinates the actions of the UN agencies, International NGOs, local NGOs and other humanitarian actors.
  • There are also academic institutions that play different roles ranging from direct intervention, research and collaboration with other humanitarian actors to enhance both the speed and the nature of response to humanitarian emergencies.
  • The private for-profit sector is beginning to emerge as an actor engaged in humanitarian emergencies.
  • The United Nation agencies like UNICEF, UNHCR, UN Women, UNOCHA (until a few years ago), UNFPA or UNDP play a crucial role in humanitarian issues.
  • The Government of Uganda through the OPM departments for Refugees and Disasters coordinates the response of humanitarian actors. There are also Local government structures like the Disaster Management committees (DMC) that also play a critical role in the face of emergencies at district level.
Contact information: 

For more information, please contact; dorah.ntunga@oxfam.org