ABIDJAN — Africa’s largest refugee hosting country completed the first week of an ongoing refugee verification process on Wednesday. Uganda’s initiative is aimed at validating and updating current government data for an estimated 1.4 million refugees to help improve assistance delivery and strengthen data credibility.

Before this program, refugee registration was conducted manually, increasing the possibility of incomplete or duplicate data caused by human error, and consequently raising questions from supporting donors about data accuracy. Last month, four Ugandan government officials in the refugee management department were suspended amid allegations of fraud, corruption, and exaggeration of refugee figures, raising further doubts about the database.

With the help of resources provided by the United Nations Refugee Agency’s biometric technology, including iris scans, UNHCR will confirm the validity of the government’s refugee database — and in some cases, update it — through a verification process scheduled to last through September.

Initial results from a March 1 pilot phase has illustrated the utility of such a process for both cross-checking governmental records and streamlining the distribution of humanitarian aid. “We verified and registered 200 more [refugees] than were originally counted by adding newborn babies to the list,” UNHCR Uganda spokesperson Duniya Aslam Khan said…