A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting one of our new projects working with Refugees in Uganda, which aims to provide up to 20,000 refugee with access to savings, loans and financial training so they can start to build secure businesses.
I was there to meet and interview refugees, to find out how our project could support them and meet their needs.
Nakivale Refugee Settlement is home to some 120,000 refugees and has approximately 400 new arrivals each week. Over 50% of refugees are from the DRC, with the remaining from Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.
When a refugee arrives they are registered and stay in the resettlement centre. The centre is a supposedly temporary settlement before they are relocated. In reality though, many families are staying in the resettlement centre for between 6 – 12 months.
Conditions in the resettlement centre are awful. It was built for 600 people but there are now almost 3,000 people living there. The accommodation ranges from tents, to makeshift wooden structures and a few of the original concrete container rooms.
Once they can be relocated, refugees are provided with a plot of land on which they can build a house and a plot of land on which they can farm/build a business – although this can sometimes be over 70km from their home.
Across Nakivale Settlement the World Food Programme distributes food once a month, measured according to household number. This is usually maize, cooking oil, sugar, beans and salt. However, when we were there it was just maize seed (which they have to pay to get milled) and cooking oil – there were supply issues.
Many of the refugees I spoke to don’t want aid or handouts they just want to rebuild their life and give their children a safe and secure future. They want to own their own business.
Charlotte was one of those I met. She arrived at the resettlement centre on 1st November with her 5 children and mother-in-law. She is heavily pregnant.
“We came with nothing. Just the clothes we are wearing. We left quickly - the militia wouldn’t let us bring anything. If I can get peace for my children and let them go to school, and if I can get help, that is my hope for the future. I had two other children in Burundi who died from sickness.
If I have the opportunity to build a business I will, so that I can look after my family. I would try anything – there is a good market here. I would like to have a shop and then also farm.”
Thank you so much. It's your support that enables us to help people like Charlotte. It enables us to provide people with a basic need that many of us in the west can take for granted - an opportunity to build a secure, prosperous and hopeful future for themselves and their family.
Photo Credit: Kate Holt