Most people associate the global migrant crisis with Europe’s struggle to accommodate the massive numbers of people who have arrived over the past two years, but African nations continue to host as many refugees as those in Europe (both regions hover around 4.4 million, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Remarkably, 26 percent of the world’s refugees now live in Africa, in some of the world’s poorest nations, least equipped to handle the inflow.
Three months ago, the town of Bidi Bidi in northern Uganda was mostly rugged grassland, speckled with a few small buildings and homes. Now, Bidi Bidi is home to the world’s fourth-biggest refugee camp, according to United Nations officials–160,000 South Sudanese who fled the most recent spasm in their country’s civil war. The makeshift camp has received the same number of refugees since July as all of Greece did from January to September, according to data from the International Office for Migration and UNHCR.
In July, fighting in South Sudan’s capital shattered a fragile cease-fire that had been in place for about a year between forces led by the country’s president and vice president. Hundreds of people were killed over several days. Immediately, civilians started fleeing their homes. Many of them crossed the border to Uganda. On one day alone, 8,000 people arrived. Women and children make up 85 percent of new arrivals at Bidi Bidi, according to UNHCR. Officials are expecting thousands more to arrive in the coming months.
Uganda hosts one of the most progressive refugee policies in the world. Refugees in Uganda are given the right to work and travel freely. They are given materials to build homes and a plot of land to cultivate. They are even allowed to vote and stand for office at a local level. The World Bank has called Uganda’s refugee policy “one of the most progressive and generous in the world.”