A VISIT BY “STOP TEARS MINISTRIES” BASED IN UGANDA TO MEET KENYAN REFUGEES AT A UGANDAN CAMP
A BRIEF INFORMATION OF OUR FINDINGS DURING THIS TRIP
On 11th July 2008 Stop Tears Ministries (STM) set for a mission to Kiryandongo Refugee Camp in Bweyale Town, in Uganda. The purpose of our visit was to meet them and give them some presents. The team was led by Ms. Monica Kairu the Country Director.
On Saturday 12th July 2008
The team left Bweyale Town abode hired transport at 08:45am and landed at the school for refugees in Magamaga Ranch 37 Cluster 0, Can-Rom Nursery and Primary School at 09:30am.
Pastor Njoroge of Kiryandongo Refugees Interdenominational Church helped us meet the refugees.
STM team started a tent-to-tent visits counseling and encouraging the refugees and also mobilized them for a prayer meeting that evening at 03:00pm at the Church.
As we went through the camp we noted that almost all families had only one tent for a shelter, apart from the lucky few who had a second one or those who found some mud and wattle, grass thatched huts left by the Sudanese Refugees who were recently repatriated back to Sudan. You can imagine a family of eight in one tent!
TOILETS AND BATHROOMS
The people have no toilets and bathroom facilities. Apart from those at or near the school; we found some of the people had tried to dig pits and improvised for latrines with scanty covers of canvas or sticks and grass. The bath shelters are very scanty and mainly are put very close to the residential tents thus building a possibility of a health hazard.
The people have tried to improvise by building simple earth ovens for cooking in the open using dry leaves and sticks because they do not have fire wood.
WATER AND SANITATION
Has been addressed by a provision of boreholes which unfortunately have hard water which the refugees say had a stale smell and a salty taste. All members of the community take turns at fetching water from these few water places especially the children and their mothers.
Food is supplied monthly from the camp stores but only a cup of beans and a cup of rice for a family and half a cup for singles this hardly supplies one meal a day. The refugee families are each allotted a plot of land to put up their shelter and cultivate some crops. The total land for the refugee camp is said to be three square miles and anybody in the camp is free to find and utilize as much land as he can if it is not being used by any other person.
The greatest problem is the short supply of seeds; they were given very few seeds. They told us that they have been forced by the tough condition to eat the seeds for lack of food.
The refuges are a hard working people in fact we found when they were all in their fields trying to cultivate maize, beans and some vegetables to keep them going even when it is dry and sunny. The earlier crop of maize and beans shows a very rich crop, so given assistance of the provision of seeds they will almost be self sustaining in times ahead.
They too have need for finances to open up new land, plough and bulls can be hired at 40,000 Uganda shillings per acre or tractors can be hired at 80,000 per acre to clear the land for planting. The land is very fertile.
PANYADOLI HEALTH CENTRE
The team also made a long trek to Panyadoli Health Centre. There we met the sick waiting for treatment and those admitted in the wards. In the three wards, were Pediatrics, Women, Men and Children. On our way to the Health Centre we met a very worried refugee, who was carrying his daughter. She had been burnt by fire on her left leg. His young son of about 2 ½ years old had a very high fever but was not attended to at the Health Centre even after waiting from morning to evening. After failing to get treatment this man then decided to take his children home. No health worker had reported to work that day.
Pastor Njoroge and his team told STM team that they often pray for the sick to give them hope because the Health Centre does not have enough drugs. This is part of the reasons that make the Health Officers to stay away from their work place. In such a situation, those admitted at the Health Centre just sleep and wait for prayers while others stay at home even when they are sick.
AREAS OF CONCERN AND NEED: A CRY FOR HELP
Children are being brought up in one tent for a shelter with all other family members, which could turn to a social threat to their cultural development. Despite inadequate food to feed them, there is a lot of child labor as children have to carry out chores like carrying water from water places, joining adults in cultivation in the fields for long hours. They have no shoes and remember there is poor sanitation and very poor bath shelters that could bring about a catastrophe in case of a breakout of contagious disease like cholera, diarrhea etc. There are two schools in each Ranch with Nursery and Primary School. There is great need for scholastic materials and teachers.
Young girls above 15 years due to idleness and lack of school facilities have the temptation to move out to towns and probably get involved in sexual acts of selling their bodies to get what is not available at the camp. The elders at the camp confirmed that the girls are actually selling their bodies to help themselves. This is really sad. We request ALL the HIV/AIDS organizations to visit the camp.
Apart from women selling themselves they are subjected to almost all house hold chores mostly without assistance from the children and the men. They are therefore burdened psychologically, physically and mentally as they try to keep the family; toiling in the gardens, fetching water, preparing food and trying to bring comfort to their families. Sometimes they have to choose between the family going hungry and sparing the seeds for planting.
YOUNG MEN (YOUTH)
Young men due to idleness and lack of school facilities have resorted to drinking local brew and loitering in the town centre , which cause them to misbehave. They might end up steeling, mugging, even murder or get themselves killed.
The men face challenges of managing affairs of the family without resources. So most of the time they are idle and this could lead them to evil acts like stealing to have something for the family or even drinking local brew. The challenges and possible failure brings a lot of frustration in families and so sometimes women abuse and beating. This problem needs to be addressed where men can be provided with basic occupations e.g. basic tools to keep them busy or have a way of earning. These men feel frustrated when they see their wives and daughters selling sex for survival. Some have ended up becoming HIV positive and infecting others due to the above habit.
The clothes they came with are now worn out; sometimes they even have had to sell off household items like saucepans, mattresses, cloths etc to get food on the table. The small tents they live in are now worn-out and of less help especially during rain periods.
OUR APPEAL TO HUMANITARIAN ORGANISATIONS, THE CLERGY, GOVERNMENTS AND WELL WISHERS.
ü There is a great need for assistance in various areas. The refugees confessed that they see relief stocks being brought to the stores but they are doubtful whether everything reaches them. More co-ordination is required to ensure fair distribution.
ü There is great need of support in areas of provision of seeds, food stuffs, clothing, shoes, soap, scholastic materials and items for recreation, etc.
ü Sanitation and improved health facilities and provision of medicines and first aid kits to avert likely illnesses that could strike the refugees at any time now.
ü There is an urgent need to help them put up alternative shelters (building materials) safer than tents. Construction of toilets is very urgent.
ü There is great need to look into areas of Education, Post Primary Institutions and skills in practical fields for the youth.
ü There is great need for drugs, mosquito nets, beddings and voluntary medical staff, / paramedical at the camp and Health centre.
Finally STM calls on governments, organizations, companies and all peoples
to kindly assist in whatever way to take care of the suffering refugees without delay. Kenyans abroad should play a bigger role in raising funds to help these helpless people.
Appreciation is extended to: The Ugandan Government for having accepted to receive, host and take care of the refugees at the Reception Centre of Mulanda Transit Camp and at Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement. Our appreciation is also extended to all other bodies that have given a hand in one way or another to these Kenyan Refugees.
Please send your comments and offers through Monica at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cell no. +256 772 88 99 99. +256 712 555 6 55.