Fleeing to safety in Uganda, thousands of South Sudanese families need urgent support

Published: 8 March 2014 13:18 CET

Susan Onyango, IFRC

John Adjak Mapior watches his young children innocently playing at the Alere refugee camp in northern Uganda. This has been their dwelling for several weeks now, hundreds of kilometres away from their home in South Sudan.

When fighting erupted in his home country, John and his family of two wives and four children, along with other relatives, fled for their lives. He had to ensure that his young children and aging mother-in-law could cope with the long and difficult journey to Uganda.

“We were fortunate that my mother was already settled in Alere, having come here last May after a wave of unrest in South Sudan. My brother and his family came with her. They asked us to come and stay with them in this camp,” said John. “All 21 of us sleep in the two huts that belong to my mother and brother.”

John was employed in the construction industry back home and was making enough money to take care of his family and close relatives. But all of that came to an abrupt end when violence broke out in December.

“We left everything, food, household items, animals, even our jobs. Many people died back home and we lost family members. I do not know where my father is. We cannot return home until peace is restored.”

John’s mother has a vegetable garden in the camp where she grows okra and kale for sale. They hope to buy some building materials with the money she makes.

Volunteers from the Uganda Red Cross visit refugees in their settlements on a daily basis. It was from them that John learned that he and his family had been allocated a plot of land, but in a separate camp. Their food rations will be delivered there. It means John and his family will soon be on the move again to a plot of land allocated to them, leaving behind his mother and brother’s family.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal of 1,722,559 Swiss francs (Uganda Population Movement Emergency Appeal) to enable the Uganda Red Cross to provide much needed assistance to these refugees. This includes registration at reception, transit and settlement camps, first aid, psychosocial support, hygiene promotion, provision of non-food relief items and restoring family links.

The Uganda Red Cross is working in coordination with the government and other humanitarian organizations in this operation.

When thousands of people crowd into a relatively small living space, conditions are ripe for the spread of disease if there is no access to water or proper sanitation. Next week, on www.ifrc.org/africa, we explore the challenges of providing clean water and sufficient numbers of latrines to thousands of South Sudanese refugees, now settling in northern Uganda.