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Urban refugees and IDPs in secondary cities

Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda each have a long history of hosting refugees and asylum seekers, with Uganda, one of the top ten refugee hosting countries worldwide, currently hosting 1.3 million (NRC, IRC). The INGOs, national and local governments in each country presently face unique and dire challenges, including civil war, climate crisis and COVID-19. At the same time, good practices exist in a variety of areas, including local leadership, social integration, employment and labour market integration, education, and refugee participation. This policy brief examines the impact of and responses to forcibly displaced people in cities and towns in East Africa, namely Arua, Uganda; Adama, Ethiopia; and Kakuma and Lodwar Town, Kenya. It also discusses a crucial gap in research on forcibly displaced people: their often unacknowledged presence in so-called secondary (non-capital) cities and towns, which themselves often lack the resources to adequately receive them. Through examples from primary research in Uganda and Ethiopia, and secondary data collection in Kenya, this brief highlights the need for more comprehensive data and evidence on and assistance to forcibly displaced people residing outside of national capitals. In many cases the needs and challenges identified are also relevant to the poor and vulnerable nationals that urban forcibly displaced people live alongside. The brief concludes with recommendations for the further engagement of humanitarian, government, and other urban actors in urban assistance to displaced people.



Research in Brief


Refugee Studies Centre

Publication Date



RSC Research in Brief 19

Total pages