Enabling children to build their resilience, free from trauma and violence

Facts and figures

  • Population: 45.7 million
  • Population under 18 years: 22 million
  • Number of children affected by conflict: 840,000
  • Percent of the refugee population who are children: 60%
  • Number of War Child projects in 2019: Four
  • Total participants: 668 (adults) 35,754 (children)
  • Number of partner organisations: Nine

National Situation

Landlocked Uganda has been independent since 1962. Since then it has endured a military coup, followed by a brutal military dictatorship which ended in 1979 and a five-year war that brought current President Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986. The country has also had dealt with a violent 20-year insurgency in the north, led by the Lord's Resistance Army.

Uganda is now enjoying peace and stability following years of conflict. Yet ongoing conflicts in three neighbouring states - South Sudan, Burundi and DR Congo - have seen large numbers of refugees enter the country over the past few years.

Uganda’s refugee population has almost tripled since July 2016. The country has become the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the third largest in the world - currently home to some 1.28 million refugees from neighbouring states. Of these, 64% (825,492 people) are from South Sudan and 27% (346,527 people) are from DRC. Children make up just over 60% of the entire refugee population.

In 2017 we adapted our Uganda programme to exclusively focus on refugee children’s needs and further expanded our presence in refugee settlements in 2018.

This significant population increase has put severe pressure on Uganda's resources. One refugee settlement alone - Bidibidi Settlement in Yumbe District in northwestern Uganda- has grown to accommodate some 227,000 people in a mere matter of months.

By the end of June 2019, UNHCR and partners working on the refugee response in Uganda have received US$150 million, 17 per cent of the total US$927 million needed.

Nelson escaped to safety after experiencing violence and abuse.

Situation of Children

Child refugees in Uganda are endured significant stress during their journeys to safety - including conflict-related violence and separation from family members. The trauma and distress experienced by refugee children and youth is both long-term and significant - initiatives to support mental health are a humanitarian priority.

Children and young people living in refugee settlements also face various threats to their rights to physical safety. These threats include sexual violence, child labour and early marriage. In addition, funding shortfalls mean that children living in camps and settlements are seeing their food rations shrink.

What We Do

We work to protect and support children and young people in Uganda through projects designed to improve their psychosocial wellbeing. This approach - coupled with our education activities - enables children to develop coping skills, build their resilience and recover from the consequences of conflict.

Improved psychosocial wellbeing allows children and young people to better engage in education - and enjoy increased livelihood opportunities as a result.

To further meet the educational needs of both refugee and host communities, we expanded our global ‘Can’t Wait to Learn’ e-learning initiative in Uganda in 2018, providing conflict-affected children with quality education. War Child has been active in Uganda since 2004.

Our Projects

Agribusiness Skills for Refugee Youth (ABSYR)

This three-year consortium project in the Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe District in northwestern Uganda aims to support young people - both refugee and host communities – to generate an income through employment in agriculture. War Child’s particular role in the consortium is to provide youth with life skills. Working together, young people can enhance their economic self-reliance and refugees and host communities can improve their access to psycho-social care.


This is a youth advocate development programme being implemented in the Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe District in northwestern Uganda. It empowers children and young people affected by armed conflict to share their experiences and influence the decisions made about them, supporting them to speak up about their - and their peers - experiences of living in war affected areas. Groups discuss, debate and share how conflict affects children and what they feel could be done to help improve their lives and the situations they find themselves in.


This major consortium-led ECHO-funded (EU) programme responds to the urgent educational needs of refugee and host-community children in three conflict-affected refugee settlements in the West Nile region and in northern Uganda (Arua, Moyo and Yumbe districts) It supports children to reclaim their right to learn by delivering fast learning opportunities in a safe and supportive environment and by providing psychosocial support to counter the trauma of war. Our partners in the programme are Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Finn Church Aid.

SPOT (Strengthening Psychosocial support service for Transformation among the Congolese refugees in Uganda)

This ECHO-funded project, run in collaboration with Humanity & Inclusion and TPO Uganda, provides critical mental health and psychosocial support services for Congolese refugees in the Kyaka II and Kyangwali settlements in western Uganda. The project especially supports victims of gender-based violence and people with disabilities. It also aims to bring harmonisation in mental health and psychosocial support interventions across the refugee response in Uganda.

War Child geeft onderwijs aan kinderen zoals Mozes in Oeganda

We work to protect and support children and young people in Uganda through projects designed to improve their psychosocial wellbeing.

Photo: War Child

Voices of Children

Emma’s Journey to Safety

Emma tries not to think about everything she experienced in South Sudan. "It would affect my school performance too much," she says.

Emma talks about her final weeks in South Sudan - and the horrors she experienced during her journey to Uganda – without much emotion. She recalls how the group of women she escaped with were shot at. Some belonged to another tribe - and were raped and then murdered by rebels from their own tribe for being with the ‘enemy’.

“Fortunately, the rebels left us alone’’ says Emma. “But time after time we came across new rebel groups. We had to give them all our belongings, our money, our livestock. Those who had nothing more to give were beaten.”

“We finally arrived in Uganda with nothing."
Emma from South Sudan

Emma now lives with her aunt and cousin in the Bidibidi refugee settlement in northern Uganda. She is safer but finds it hard to adjust to her new life. "My aunt says that my parents will soon come here too,” she says. “I miss them because they have always taken care of me. And I miss the brick house we lived in and the food we ate. There was always plenty of food and it was nice. Here we only eat beans."