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Oruchinga Refugee Camp

Refugees in the Oruchinga refugee camp in Southern Uganda, as well as the Ugandan capital, Kampala. © Ayla Bonfiglio

Uganda has a long-standing history of hosting refugees from neighboring countries. It is one of the few countries of asylum to allow refugees to either settle themselves within the national population, or to live in a UNHCR-sponsored refugee settlement. This collection of photographs was taken in April and July of 2008, during a comparative study on self-reliance among refugees from these two settlement contexts.

Oruchinga Settlement

The Oruchinga Refugee Settlement, where all of the UNHCR-sponsored settlement photographs were taken, is located 20 kilometers from the Tanzanian border. The government of Uganda and the UNHCR established the settlement between 1959 and 1961, when Uganda experienced the arrival of thousands of Rwandese Tutsis fleeing ethnic violence.

Oruchinga is organized into seven villages. Its local political organization parallels that of the local Ugandan government to facilitate their working together to develop their communities. They share the same schools, infrastructural issues, and access to medical facilities. According to the latest census taken by the Office of the Prime Minister in 2007, the population totaled 2,170.

At the time these photographs were taken, the organizations operating in Oruchinga included German Techniche Zusannenarbeit, International Medical Corps, Aktion Afrika Hilfe, and Right to Play. However, the tasks of these agencies were limited. Assistance given to refugees had long shifted from "emergency" to "care and maintenance" because residents were expected to have achieved the capacity to provide for their livelihoods, and the government of Uganda had determined that the situation in Rwanda was suitable for their return.

Self Settlement

The photographs of self-settled refugees were taken in refugee neighborhoods in and around Kampala. In 2002, Human Rights Watch estimated that Kampala was home to 50,000 refugees. Ugandan government policy requires that self-settled refugees forfeit any rights to free healthcare, food rations, non-food items, land, and various forms of development assistance from the government of Uganda and UNHCR. These refugees must also find their own housing and employment.


All photographs © Ayla Bonfiglio, 2008.

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Last updated Jun 09, 2011