Teresa de Almeida, Program Director visited refugee camps in Uganda housing the people fleeing violence and the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Almeida visited three refugee settlements – Rhino, Bidi Bidi and Imvepi. According to the UNHCR, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have arrived in Uganda every day through 2017 and more than 85% of the refugees are women and children.
Some Alfalit teachers from the South Sudanese communities went along with their neighbors to the refugee camps. Back in Yei, South Sudan, we are supporting the families by ensuring children are fed porridge at least once a day. While they remain malnourished and stunted, we are trying to meet the very minimum food requirements for the children.
Teresa was joined by Mr. Mandela Michael, Executive Director of our affiliate. She reported that every visit to the refugee camps was marked by the students’ and teachers’ expressions of joy and hope. Meetings were held at churches and she received the warmest of welcomes with songs, dancing, and testimonies. Most of the women fled with the children they could save. Their husbands, children, and relatives are either slaughtered or separated without a means of communication.
The living conditions in the camps are extremely hard. Sometimes they spend 2-3 days without clean water. Roads into and out of the camps are unreliable in the rainy season for delivery of water, food, and aid supplies. The registered refugees receive monthly rations of maize and beans. They sometimes resort to selling these in order to obtain other essentials and medicines, if available. They cannot plant anything because of the rocky terrain and infertile soil. The kids have no access to schools, the adults have no opportunities to work. They are located at least 1-2 hours from the nearest city and the government strongly discourages any economic activity by the refugees.
All the people will carry the trauma for the rest of their lives and some even try to kill themselves due to lack of hope or just want to go back to die in their own country.
The communities pleaded to restart the classes, expand beyond the food aid. They still carry the pride of having learned to read and write, despite all the misery. They need the classes to keep alive the hope for a better future. Teresa also met a few students that were able to be hired at the camps only because they learned how to speak and read in English at Alfalit classes in South Sudan.
Alfalit supervisor from Yei, South Sudan also traveled to meet Teresa, at a great risk to his own life. His family lives at the refugee camp, while he runs the program back in South Sudan. He shared that the porridge program is the only reliable food for the children in Yei. Some Alfalit teachers decided to return to Yei to continue literacy programs for those left behind. Felix Amule and Olipo decided to go back to Yei to care for these children and to keep the literacy classes running with the students left behind. The supervisor’s family lives in the refugee camp in Uganda and he is by himself in Yei, to make sure that the program is running and the kids are fed.
Executive Director, Mandela and all of us at Alfalit are so proud of the teams in South Sudan and Uganda. They sacrifice every day for their families, communities, and neighbors. They all desire to go home and live in peace.