Fleeing to safety in Uganda: A refugee’s story

Published: 26 January 2014 14:58 CET

By Chanelle Corena, Danish Red Cross Society

For close to one year, men, women and children from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been pouring over the border into neighbouring Uganda, hoping to escape the ongoing violence plaguing the eastern regions of DRC. Thousands have arrived at the Nyakabande refugee transit camp, where they receive shelter, food and other basic necessities from the Uganda Red Cross Society.

Mukeshimana Sarafina is one of those who has fled. This is her story.

My name is Mukeshimana Sarafina. I have been staying at the Nyakabande refugee transit camp with my two young children since June. We had to flee the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) without my husband. To this day, I still do not know where he is or if he is even still alive. I worry constantly about him and that we may never see him again.

I was originally born in Rwanda but have lived in DRC with my husband, who is Congolese. Our children were born in DRC and therefore have Congolese status, however, I am still considered Rwandese. Because of my nationality, we have been unable to be granted access to specific services in east Africa which other DRC refugees are able to get. I can’t return to DRC because of the dangerous situation there, and we can’t relocate to Rwanda because the children are Congolese. We are stuck.

Since finding refuge here in Nyakabande, I have found stable shelter and received items such as food, sleeping mats and soap. These supplies have been incredibly helpful to us. The Red Cross staff and volunteers at Nyakabande have provided a safe place for us to stay until we can find my husband, are granted permission to remain in Uganda, and until additional family and friends from DRC cross the border and join us here in Uganda.

With support from the Danish Red Cross Society, 120 volunteers from the Uganda Red Cross have been trained in relief and camp management, and how to administer psychosocial support and first aid. They have since been deployed to raise awareness about proper hygiene and sanitation in the transit camp and among host communities. Other activities include monitoring and assessing the population movement at the border crossings, constructing eight kitchens and overseeing the preparation of food for refugees, and reuniting unaccompanied children with their families.