Social media and inclusion in humanitarian action – the case of refugees in Uganda

Dolan, C., Tshimba, D.N. and Nuwagira, G.
Publication language
Date published
01 May 2022
Case study
Comms, media & information, Technological, Forced displacement and migration

This paper, written by Refugee Law Project (RLP) at Makerere University’s School of Law and produced in collaboration with the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) at ODI, reflects on a research project that examined the relationship between social media and inclusion in humanitarian action in Uganda’s forced migration context.

This study highlights a disconnect between refugees’ expectations of social media on the one hand, and humanitarians’ ability and willingness to engage with those expectations on the other. While humanitarians are right to engage with caution given the risks to themselves and to their beneficiaries if they simply rush in, the rapid evolution and usage of social media suggests that humanitarians would do well to adopt more intentional approaches to developing systems in order to use these media to mutual benefit. This has never been truer than during the current pandemic in which the imperatives of social distancing continue to re-socialise refugees and humanitarians and their interactions.

The qualitative field research on which this study is based involved refugee populations in a variety of settings (self-settled urban and settlement-based rural) in Uganda and humanitarian workers delivering different types of assistance to these refugee populations. It draws on both the findings from this qualitative research and an in-depth understanding of the particular context faced by refugees (both settled and self-settled) in Uganda, to arrive at a set of recommendations for humanitarian actors working in this particular space.