Uganda biometric refugee registration program faces scale and funding hurdles

Uganda’s biometric registration program for refugees in the country has verified the identity of 11,684 out of an estimated 1.4 million refugees in its first week, Devex reports.

UNHCR launched the program earlier this month in cooperation with the country’s government and the World Food Programme, hoping to register up to 18,000 people per day. Settlements of people fleeing violence in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Somalia are spread across the country, and the program will begin identifying individuals at camps in northern districts in April, according to Devex.

Four government officials from Uganda’s refugee management department were suspended last month due to allegations of fraud and corruption, which include misstated tallies of refugees, and cast doubt on the accuracy of the existing database.

Establishing an accurate database is important both for ensuring the effective delivery of aid, and for encouraging further contributions to one of the UNHCR’s most under-resourced programs, UNHCR Uganda spokesperson Duniya Aslam Khan told Devex.

“The purpose is to verify the accuracy, duplicates, new births, and deaths to help the government deliver assistance to the right people in a timely manner and strengthen the credibility of the data,” Khan said. She noted that 200 newborn babies have already been added to the database.

Khan says the international community needs to increase investment in local infrastructure through the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework to make Uganda’s progressive refugee policy successful.

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