The number of refugees in Africa reached 6.9 million in 2021, nearly tripling over the past 15 years. Uganda alone hosts 1.5 million refugees, making it the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and third in the world. Uganda has progressive refugee management policies that have welcomed refugees into the country for more than 70 years, with the average length of stay being seven to eight years.1 The pressure on water resources and infrastructure arising from the massive inflow and protracted stay of refugees is high and cannot be sustained solely through humanitarian interventions. The provision of water services in the refugee settlements under the humanitarian context is fragmented, and the actors supporting the refugee response can no longer provide effective and quality services because of financial and capacity constraints. This paper outlines Uganda’s pioneering shift from a traditional humanitarian water service model, designed for short-term emergencies, to a holistic approach that integrates refugees and host communities in long-term national development planning. It illustrates how Ugandan policy makers, the World Bank, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have come together to collectively design interventions at the national and local levels that have advanced this transition. The critical analytics, tools, and road maps generated through those interventions anchored the policy dialogues, reforms, and financing mechanisms that supported the transfer of water systems and provision services from humanitarian partners to national utilities. As a result, US$57 million of donor funds were mobilized and 50 water systems have already been transferred to national water providers, serving approximately 12 percent of the refugees and their host communities. Sharing the lessons learned from Uganda’s experience with World Bank project teams, partners, and other countries managing forced displacement may be beneficial as they strive to improve provision of water services to refugees and hosting communities.

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