Open doorway to great refugee need

Open doorway to great refugee need

Since war broke out across the border in 2013, more than 2.5 million South Sudanese people have been displaced and over 120,000 refugees have ended up in the vast camps at Adjumani. Uganda Communications Officer Jill Vine visited Adjumani just weeks after the newly constructed airstrip was opened.

Flying in with staff from Tutapona and War Child Canada, I am fascinated to see that the camps are not simply rows of tents in concentrated areas, but are spread out in a way these Sudanese would live back home.

With huts built from material provided by UNHCR, people are also given space to grow their own produce.  

The airstrip is vital

Dreeni Geer regularly visits the camps. War Child Canada’s legal aid lawyer has arthritis, so MAF will make her job much easier – a 1½-hour flight from Kampala replacing the painful 8-hour drive. ‘We’ve had plenty of mishaps on the road,’ she tells us.

War Child’s Programme Manager Sam Odong was on a bus that overturned, but he thankfully suffered only minor injuries. The refugees greatly appreciate the legal aid
and training provided by War Child. Dreeni covers about 50 cases a month – many involving underage defilement.

One poignant story involved a 13-year-old girl whose family had arranged her marriage to a 27-year-old businessman in South Sudan.

‘When people have lost all hope, we
encourage them to believe they have a future’

‘I’ve learnt how to forgive’ 

Observing first-hand the effect MAF partner Tutapona has on broken lives is a revelation. It provides trauma counselling, moving from camp to camp as new refugees arrive.

Over 2 weeks, 100 refugees attend their Empower Programme. They learn ways to cope with trauma and find strategies for forgiveness – surely the most healing tonic for these broken people. ‘I love seeing lives changed,’ shares Emmanuel, one of Tutapona’s field facilitators. ‘When people have lost all hope, we encourage them to believe they have a future.’

I am overwhelmed meeting a trio of elderly women who, three months before, had run for their lives from the war in South Sudan. Sitting on a mat with her orphaned grandchildren, Awa Dakol tells me how she leapt over dead bodies as she fled, having seen three of her children killed.

The weight of her reality is stark and incomprehensible. Utterly desolate, she has come to see if the Empower Programme would offer her any hope. Cizarina, a mother of five, has completed the programme. ‘Because of the programme, I’ve learnt how to forgive,’ she explains. Her drunken husband has lived in a nearby camp for three years. Tutapona acted as a mediator to help resolve their problems.

By flying in partners like Tutapona and War Child, MAF is able to help rebuild the lives of women like Awa and Cizarina – bringing hope and healing to them as they struggle with the aftermath of war.

Story: Jill Vine
Photos: Dave Forney