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A journey to improving livelihoods of refugees and host communities –UNDP’s Cash for Work

Article by Winnie Tumusiime – Communications Officer Living Earth Uganda

“They come in their thousands, day after day after day, then they come in their thousands more”. David Pilling in Northern Uganda. June 8th 2017.

The Emergency livelihood Project through Cash for Work was launched in August 2018. It was implemented in partnership with  Living Earth Uganda with support from UNDP with
funding from United Nations CERF in Palorinya  refugee settlement (Zone 3)  and  Itula sub- county Moyo district ;Imvepi refugee settlement (Zone 2 and 3)   and  Odupi sub-county
Arua district.

The program supported refugees and host communities by providing temporary employment opportunities.

Some of the “Cash for Work” Project activities implemented by Living Earth Uganda include; road rehabilitation and maintenance, valley dam construction, construction of  a market shade, establishment of   a playground in Imvepi.

These activities were selected through consultations with representatives from the refugee and host communities, local authorities, and other stakeholders in consideration of the needs on the ground.

Living Earth Uganda on Livelihoods

Improving livelihoods through economic inclusion is a key component of achieving protection and solutions for refugees. Economic inclusion entails access to labour markets, finance, entrepreneurship and economic opportunities for all including non-citizens in addition to vulnerable and under-served groups.

Economic inclusion contributes to the self-reliance and resilience of refugees, empowering them to meet their needs in a safe, sustainable and dignified manner; avoids aid-dependency and negative coping mechanisms; contributes to their host economies; and prepares refugees for their future whether they return home, integrate in their country of asylum or resettle in a third country.

Economic inclusion starts from the beginning of the refugee influx, and leveraging the provision of both humanitarian assistance and educational opportunities at this stage can lead to better outcomes for refugees in later phases of displacement.

Meet Jeresu Suzan, one of the Cash for Work project beneficiaries from South Sudan whose hope of going back to school  is now a dream come true.


“I was studying from   Kajokeji   high school, In Sudan.

I stopped in senior two because my mother is too old to work and could not afford my school fees anymore.

So with this cash for work, I am working to help   my mother be in position to raise money to take me back to school.

When I work   and am paid, I  plan to go back to school next year 2019 using the money I
will get from the Cash for Work Project.

There is no Secondary school in the camp where I can study for free so I have to work to be able to raise money to pay school fees.

I will use the money to pay school fees, buy exercise books, text books and pamphlets for subjects like history, biology, chemistry and mathematics so I can excel in my studies”.

Says  Suzan  Jeresu   one of the project beneficiaries at her work station  in  Dongo Village
Zone 3 Palorinya refugee settlement, Moyo district.

The self-reliance agenda promoted by UNDP’S   Cash for Work and its partners has effectively eroded the perception that refugee camps are stagnant places, home to disillusioned, idle populations waiting in line for humanitarian handouts. Instead, humanitarian agencies increasingly focus on refugee livelihoods, including advocating for refugees’ right to work and facilitating access to informal market economies in small-trade goods, agricultural projects in and around camps and remote employment opportunities.

Livelihood programming generally means providing short vocational skills courses for jobs. The idea is that refugees can then go on to start their own businesses or participate in the informal markets that characterize most “refugee economies.”

The project   involves both refugees and locals from the host communities; this is part of
UNDP’s efforts to encourage good relationships between the two beneficiaries.

Two thousand two hundred fifty (2,250) refugees and hosting community members, among them 75% female headed, were selected to take part in the project. A number of the women are widows or survivors of Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV).

Cash is paid in return for work to provide individuals and households with the means to meet their life-saving needs (food, medical care, and other essential household goods and services etc.) to stabilize livelihoods.

Some  of  the  benefits of this Cash for Work  project implemented by Living Earth
Uganda  activities will   include:

The cleared roads will allow easier access for humanitarian aid to reach isolated communities;

The Cash for Work employees selected in cooperation with local authorities and community leaders will bring income to 2,250 households;
The payments to workers will inject needed cash into the local economy.

UNPD’s aim for this project that refugee and hosting communities co-exist peacefully. Presently, Living Earth Uganda the implementer of this project has constructed roads, done
road rehabilitation, constructed valley dams, market shades, playgrounds and various trainings on HIV prevention and first aid and others not mentioned here, through Cash for Work activities that were chosen and are still being implemented in districts of Moyo and Arua, West Nile region, benefiting 2,250 refugees and host community members in both districts.

Project started in August and ends December 2018.

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Launch of the Cash for Work at Lerege college
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