– November 20 2017
Rebuild: Strengthening refugee and local families
SOS Children’s Villages Uganda will launch a programme to help the surging number of refugees in the country’s southwest, with a focus on vulnerable local and refugee families.
The programme at the Rwamwanja refugee settlement aims to boost the economic status of families, offer psychological and emotional support, and improve gender relations between the host community and refugees. Many of the families have fled violence in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“We want to enable refugees, especially families headed by women, to settle into the community but also help the local Ugandan communities accept the refugees,” said Olive Lumonya, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Uganda. “There are growing numbers of refugees because of the instability in other countries, and we believe these families are more likely to settle here for longer times.”
Nearly 1.4 million people from surrounding countries are seeking refuge in Uganda. In the country’s northern districts, about 1 million South Sudanese have arrived, many since mid-2016, while the southwestern regions host an estimated 350,000 refugees from the DRC, Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda and other countries.
“This is a challenge because at the Rwamwanja settlement there are different communities with different languages and cultures, and this creates pressure on host communities,” Ms Lumonya said. “This is different than the situation in the north, where the Ugandan and South Sudan communities have similar languages, and there is a long tradition of trading.”
Rebuilding communities, helping families
Called “Rebuild”, the project will support at least 200 female-headed refugee families and 100 Ugandan families. Rwamwanja is near SOS Children’s Village Fort Portal.
Uganda is Africa’s largest host country for refugees and asylum seekers and has one of the world’s largest refugee populations. The surge in population has put pressure on infrastructure and prices, creating particular challenges for families who are already at risk. An estimated 70,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are now in Rwamwanja and the numbers are rising.
“Pressure on the host community is growing and the services available to refugees are not always available to the host community,” said Robert Bahenyangi, Programme Director for SOS Children’s Villages Uganda in Fort Porto. “We are trying to create balance between these two communities.”
The two-year Rebuild programme has received government approval and financial commitments. SOS Children’s Villages Uganda is now working with partners to identify the 300 families who will participate in the project. It is the first programme of its kind for SOS Children’s Villages Uganda.
Maize and other staples are distributed once a month at the Pagrinya refugee settlement in northern Uganda. Many refugees in the country are provided with a small plot of land to grow their own food to supplement relief supplies. Photos by Will Boase.
Help for South Sudan refugee children under consideration
SOS Children’s Villages Uganda is also assessing whether to begin an emergency response programme for South Sudan refugees, more than 80% of whom are women and children.
The organisation is well positioned to use its long experience in care and protection of Ugandan children and families to help refugees as well. Rebuild could also provide experience for the emergency response programme in the north should it happen.
“It is not necessarily a model because the situation in the north is different”, said Ms Lumonya. “But it can be a benchmark and a learning process for us.”
Read more about our work in Uganda.
The project is supported by the Austrian Development Cooperation.
Top photo: Uganda hosts nearly 1.4 million refugees from nearby countries. A boy heads to school at a refugee settlement near the South Sudan border.