What is life like in a refugee camp?
The refugees work quite a bit… getting clean water, foraging for firewood and foods, selling things in a shop, keeping their garden. In camps like these a microcosm of economy begins to bloom… men with bikes serve as ‘taxis’; other men fix broken bike wheels and flat tires; women and girls open roadside shops selling things they grow or buy in commerce with others from outside the camp. The camp is large, 42 square miles.
Each refugee household has a plot, very small… maybe 30-40 square yards, that they plant with corn, beans, and usually ground nuts (peanuts). It really isn’t much space to grow considering a family of five or six, or even two families, live in one household.
School age children go to school, and have their main meal of the day (sometimes only meal) which is sponsored by Feed The Hungry. The kids go home in the late afternoon and do chores, fetch needed firewood, eat and sleep. Kids leave home early, at first morning light, to collect firewood that they bring to the school so that the kitchen has ‘fuel’ for cooking the lunch that day. Every child is expected to collect firewood so lunch can be cooked.
It really is a hard, survival life. If someone gets sick or injured with what we think might be a small concern, it can be disastrous. There is only one medical clinic in the refugee camp that serves 50,000 residents. Only one M.D.! Several nurses, orderlies, and midwives are at the hospital clinic, but if you need a doctor or surgery quickly it could be lights out for you. There are close to 200 births per month in the camp… about 6 per day.
A DESIRE TO GO HOME:
The refugees will not live in the camp forever. They want to go home, to their own lands and their own people. They are not allowed to go to other parts of Uganda and integrate into general society, they must live in the camp. But they will return to their homelands in the Congo or in Sudan when fighting subsides. In the Rwamwanja camp the population was up to 65,000+ last year, but is now at 50,000 because fighting/civil war in some areas of the Congo has calmed down, so 15,000 people or so have made their way back home.
Conversely, fighting in South Sudan has picked up again and there were 20,000 refugees who fled from Sudan into northern Uganda last month (the Kiryandongo camp where FTH is feeding refugee children).