Beneficiaries line up to receive their money at Kyaka II. PHOTO: DRC

Empowering vulnerable Congolese refugees in Uganda through cash

Kayaka II refugee settlement has seen a doubling in its population over the course of only a little over six months. Many have arrived from DR Congo and often with nothing else than the clothes they had on when they fled. We assist the most vulnerable.


When Mukasine Deborah, a 67-year-old Congolese refugee in Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda, had received her cash, she raised her hands in the air and said: "Thank God! I can now buy my medicine."

"My medication is important. It makes me able to walk. I took the last I had last evening".

Still standing in line to receive cash assistance was 22-year-old Nsekanabo Yaya, a mother of four. She was breastfeeding the youngest while counting the money she had just received from a teller inside a mobile bank truck from Post Bank Uganda limited, a local bank.

"I fled to Uganda from Congo with nothing" she said while adjusting the baby to make it comfortable: "We fled even without any extra clothes to wear."

Up until last year, Kyaka II in South western Uganda had a population of about 27,000 people. But when conflict once more broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December 2017, Kyaka’s population began to witness a dramatic rise.

"The influx continues with convoys of refugees arriving at least twice a week," said Adam Aswani, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC)’s area manager in Kyaka II.

DRC runs the reception centre in Kyaka II where refugees are offered a hot meal, screened and resettled on pieces of land offered by the Ugandan government.

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A DRC staff in Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda checks the documents of a Congolese refugee during a cash distribution. PHOTO: DRC

Mukasine Deborahand Nsekanabo Yayawere screened and both categorized as extremely vulnerable. That is why they found themselves in a line on a Thursday morning to receive 132,000 Uganda shilling each (about 34 USD) as the first tranche out of a total of 220,000 shilling (about 56 USD).

The money is from a six-months unconditional cash transfer project now in its fourth month of implementation by the DRC. The project is funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and its aim is to enhance the protection environment for new arrivals in Kyaka II.   

"The money is given to the most vulnerable refugees. It is meant to fill existing gaps of their basic needs not currently covered," Guled Ismael Mohmoud, DRC’s Cash Project Manager in Kyaka, explained:

"Cash empowers its beneficiaries. It gives them dignity and flexibility and offers hope of settling easily."

15-year old Majoro Namayaga was also among the people who in the cash reception line. The teenager had fled the Congo for Uganda alone.

"I will use the money to buy some clothes and bake cakes to sell in the settlement," he said and explained that he dreamed of one day becoming a mason.

For Nsekanabo Yaya, the young mother, the money will be for buying food for her children and for investing in her small grocery business at the local market.

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An impromptu market selling some of the basic needs of the vulnerable refugees emerged at the cash distribution centre. PHOTO: DRC

Before the beginning of implementation of the cash project, DRC carried out an assessment in Kyaka II resulting into a ‘‘minimum expenditure basket’’ - a document that outlines the regular basic needs of a refugee household in the settlement, and the cost of the needs. The assessment also concluded that the vibrant local economy in Kayaka II has the capacity to absorb the cash and is able to supply the goods needed by the beneficiaries of the cash programme.

In the first distribution, 1,875 beneficiaries received their money while the total target for the project is 3,000 households.

Kyaka II, which is located 18 kilometers off a major road linking the Ugandan capital Kampala to the western town of Fort Portal, has a vibrant local economy. Agriculture is a key means of livelihood for both the refugees and host communities.

But the doubling of Kyaka’s population, which has happened since the beginning of December 2017, has increased the pressure on available land for original refugee households putting their livelihood security at risk.