This thesis examines the lived experiences of older Congolese refugees struggling to create secure futures during forced displacement and COVID-19 (subsequent shocks) in Kyangwali refugee settlement, Uganda. This qualitative study documents the coping mechanisms older refugees between the ages of 60 and 94 used to mitigate a myriad of disruptions and loss during their displacement from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Uganda. Empirical evidence includes fifty in-depth interviews (in person and remote formats) conducted with older refugees and thirty additional interviews with other stakeholders prior to and during the onset of COVID-19.

The findings contribute to a dearth of literature on older refugees, particularly those living in Africa and the Global South. It presents a critique to current programming and planning on protracted crises which focuses on the promotion of self-reliance strategies with a market-based approach. This approach was not adequate for the older population. The thesis offers a new conceptualisation and framework for secure futures of older refugees.

Secure futures is a triple nexus of social networks of support, safety nets and livelihoods. Social networks of support are defined as location-specific social capital that people draw upon to gain access to resources elsewhere and are crucial to fulfil the material and emotional needs of older refugees. Among the participants in this study, social networks decreased over time and were difficult to reestablish in their host community. Safety nets are institutional support that older refugees have access to when they are given the refugee status in Uganda and were crucial for the health and wellbeing of the older refugee, but were not stable or consistent, especially with the impact of COVID-19 and other shocks where humanitarian assistance to displaced persons decreased. Finally, livelihoods, which are capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of living were essential for their survival, but difficult for older refugees to access because of availability as well as physical accessibility. The findings show that if older refugees are going to live a life of dignity in their final years, international and national humanitarian and assistance programs must provide secure futures targeted to this vulnerable and often-forgotten population.


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Cite as

Avalos Cortez, E. 2024, 'The Impact of Forced Displacement and the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Secure Futures of Older Refugees in Uganda', University of Dundee. https://discovery.dundee.ac.uk/en/studentTheses/2a4c876d-4398-484f-a715-f67238810ab4

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Last updated: 03 May 2024
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