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Economic Impact of Refugee settlements in Uganda

2016 — By Heng Zhu, Mateusz Filipski, Jaako Valli, Ernesto Gonzalez, Anubhab Gupta, J. Edward Taylor

Uganda is home to close to 800,000 refugees, mostly from South Sudan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It also has one of the most favorable and progressive refugee assistance programs in the world, with freedom of movement, work rights, and land officially set aside for refugees to farm. 

These policies potentially affect the welfare of refugees as well as the impacts of refugees on host-country populations living around refugee settlements. A recent study found that refugees and WFP food aid to refugees have positive impacts on local incomes in Rwanda, and these impacts vary by form of food aid (cash or in-kind) as well as across camps (Taylor, et al., 2016; Taylor, 2016). Little is known about the impacts of refugees or refugee food aid in Uganda’s unique policy and geographic environment.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, collaborated with the World Food Programme to document the economic impacts of refugees and WFP aid within a 15 km radius around two refugee settlements in Uganda.

Adjumani is the largest refugee settlement in Uganda, with around 185,000 inhabitants. Rwamwanja is the fifth largest, with around 60,000. Extensive surveys of households and businesses inside and outside these settlements provided data to construct a local-economy impact evaluation (LEWIE; Taylor and Filipski, 2014) model for the camps and surrounding host-country economies. This model was used to simulate the impacts of an additional refugee household, as well as an additional dollar of WFP aid, on real (inflation-adjusted) total income in the local economy, as well as on the incomes of refugee and host-country households separately.