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Uganda Faces UN Job Losses Amid Global Restructuring

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UN Agencies in Uganda Implement Staff Reductions
UN Agencies in Uganda Implement Staff Reductions
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In a recent development, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) Uganda offices on George Street in Kampala announced significant job cuts. These cuts are part of a broader restructuring process that affects several United Nations (UN) agencies in Uganda. The restructuring stems from various reasons, including global socio-political factors, reduced revenue, and financial constraints.

As a result of this restructuring, two sub-offices of the UN refugee agency in Uganda will be merged into one, and three others will be downgraded to field offices. These measures have sparked discontent among staff, who claim unfair treatment and have left many uncertain about their future at the organization.

The personnel reductions extend to new hires, aiming to improve operational efficiency amid reduced funding. High-ranking UN officials, including the resident coordinator, the Unicef representative, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representatives, have confirmed these changes.

The job cuts affect both local and international staff, including recent local hires and expatriates with expiring contracts. The impact has been particularly severe at Unicef and UNHCR, where some staff will conclude their service by the end of December, while others will depart by June 2024.

The reasons behind these job cuts include the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, the global economic downturn, and inflationary pressures, which have all affected donor funding for humanitarian and development work. This realignment process is not unique to Uganda and is occurring in other countries as well.

UNHCR’s operations in Uganda are undergoing a structural and staffing review as part of a global exercise driven by declining economic conditions, shrinking donor contributions, and increasing humanitarian needs worldwide. By 2024, there will be an eight percent reduction in UNHCR staff in Uganda, similar to reductions happening across UNHCR offices globally.

Uganda has been hosting a substantial number of refugees from neighboring countries, such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Burundi. This has made the work of UNHCR, along with partners like the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), crucial in providing support and services to refugees in areas like protection, shelter, education, and community integration.

However, without additional funding, critical service reductions and operational cuts are expected, affecting food security, education, healthcare, deforestation, and humanitarian assistance. Reduced funding for communication channels and sanitation services for refugees also pose health risks.

Unicef’s funding in Uganda fell short by 34 percent compared to initial projections, further highlighting the financial challenges faced by UN agencies in the country. Workers who lose their jobs may struggle to find new employment, given the funding crisis within Ugandan civil society.