June 20th is World Refugee Day, a day to honor refugees and to celebrate their strength, courage and resilience. Today also serves as a reminder that no matter who you are or where you come from, everyone deserves the right to seek safety.
Over the last decade, the number of displaced people around the world has more than doubled, and currently one-third of all global refugees reside in Africa. A combination of factors including climate change, inter-ethnic violence, armed conflict, food insecurity, inequalities, and poverty have driven millions from their homes in search of safety.
In new countries, refugees and displaced people face language, legal, economic and cultural barriers. This limits the opportunities to generate income and meet household needs, often initiating a cycle of dependence on humanitarian aid, which can prevent participation in community life, and limit sustainable development and economic growth.
However, programs like graduation offer a solution – by strengthening capacities, helping start and grow businesses, connecting participants to markets, providing technical training, and promoting savings, both displaced people and host communities can break the cycle of extreme poverty and dependence on aid.
In response to this crisis, BOMA has expanded their programs to new countries and new populations, adapting the poverty graduation approach to meet the needs of displaced people and the communities that receive them. By targeting both refugees and host populations, the projects not only help those living in extreme poverty to establish sustainable livelihoods, but also promote social cohesion, integration and peacebuilding.
With refugee-focused engagements in Uganda, Cameroon, and soon Burkina Faso and Chad, BOMA is working with partners to adapt the graduation approach to better serve the communities affected by conflict and migration. Each refugee-adapted program varies based on local context and need.
Uganda hosts the most refugees in Africa and is the third largest host country in the world. According to the UNHCR, conflict and insecurity in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo have caused over 35,000 people to flee to Uganda since January, and 60,000 more are expected by the end of the month. This is in addition to the 1.5 million refugees already living in the country.
BOMA is halfway through a pilot project in West Nile, Uganda that has enrolled Individuals of refugee and host communities, including children and youth. As one of the most vulnerable groups, children are often heavily affected by displacement and poverty, and these conditions often cause children to live or work in the street. In order to address the root causes of this issue, the graduation adaptation in Uganda is focused on enhancing income-generating abilities in the household, provide protection to affected children and support parents to raise their children safely.
The situation in Burkina Faso is one of the fastest-growing displacement crises in the world. As of March 30, 2022, there were 1,850,293 IDPs according to the National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation.
BOMA is working in partnership with Swiss Caritas in the Central-North region of Burkina Faso to launch a 24-month program that targets three thousand internally displaced people (70%) and host community households (30%). It is estimated that the ripple effects of this project will indirectly benefit over 250,000 people in the intervention areas.
Cameroon is home to over 2 million people of concern, including one million internally displaced people (IDP), 466,000 returnees, and 460,00 refugees primarily from the Central African Republic and Nigeria. Three separate conflicts in the Far North, North-West and South-West regions are the main cause of internal displacement.
In partnership with the Danish Refugee Council, BOMA is helping launch a poverty graduation program that will enable refugees and under-employed populations to reduce dependence on dwindling aid resources, become self-reliant, and actively contribute to local economies while building skills and experience that will allow them to sustain their livelihoods long after the project’s end. The pilot will enroll 2,000 participants – half of whom will be from host communities and the other half refugees.
Looking to the Future
The poverty graduation model has proven results that show those enrolled can overcome the toughest barriers and leave extreme poverty behind for good. Today, and every day, BOMA honors the thousands of refugee graduation participants and the successes they have achieved.