The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has hailed Ugandan government for its generosity in hosting over one million refugees.

Antonio Guterres, formerly UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was on Thursday visiting to Imvepi Refugee settlements in Odupi Sub County in Terego County in Arua.

He noted that while other countries are closing doors to refugees, Uganda has remained generous by host refugees especially from the war torn South Sudan.

“In a world where so many people are selfishly closing their doors, closing their borders, not allowing refugees to come, this example deserves praise and admiration from the whole international community,” Guterres told reporters at the Imvepi Refugee Reception Centre in the Arua district.

Imvepi is the first stop for many South Sudanese refugees once they cross the border into Uganda. The camp, which opened in February this year, is already filling up; hosting some 120,000 refugees, mostly women and children, fleeing violence and instability in the neighboring country.

In just the past year, the overall refugee population in Uganda has more than doubled – from 500,000 to more than 1.25 million – making Uganda host to the world’s fastest growing refugee emergency.

The UN chief pointed out that the international community would has an opportunity to express its solidarity, “responding to our appeal for massive financial support, both for humanitarian aid for the refugees, but also for the investments necessary for the education system, the health system, the infrastructure, the [local] environment, to be able to cope with this enormous challenge.”

Several international aid agencies and donors countries are expected to make pledges towards the campaign to raise 8 billion dollars for refugee sustainability in the next four years.

Antonio Guterres recounted that he last visited the camp twelve years ago celebrating World Refugee Day with South Sudanese refugees that were singing with joy because they were going back home soon. He said he had later accompanied many of them across the border with the hope that their new country would live in peace. Unfortunately, that had not been the case as the peace that was anticipated did not last.

South Sudan’s leaders “do not deserve the people of their country,” said the Secretary-General, stressing that the South Sudanese people have been suffering enormously in an endless war.”

“It is time for the war to end. It is time for all the leaders of South Sudan to understand that they need to stop this war,” he said, expressing gratitude for the efforts made by the Heads of State of the region, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union and by the UN to help create the conditions for peace to be re-established.

Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, hailed the UN Secretary General for his passion towards supporting Uganda in maintaining refugees. Rugunda urged the international community together with local leaders to donate generously towards the refugees settlements in Uganda.

He said the money will be used to put up social amenities such as roads, health centers and schools for the refugees and host communities.

Rugunda says that the government of Uganda is working together with its partner states, and regional bodies to have an end to the crisis in South Sudan.

Local leaders appealed to the Secretary General and the UN to focus on solving the crisis in South Sudan that has led to the massive influx of refugees in the country. Arua District Chairperson, Sam Wadri Nyakua said most of the social services in the district have experienced pressures from the refugee influx.

– URN