Picking up the pieces: one man’s hopes for his family

Published: 2 April 2014 9:40 CET

Susan Onyango, IFRC

Philip Alier Achiek gazes at the sun as it rises over the Barakutu refugee camp in northern Uganda. His four children sit patiently on a mat as their mother prepares their breakfast of porridge on a three-stone cooking stove. For two weeks now, their home has been a temporary shelter made from reeds and plastic sheeting.

When violence broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013, Philip and his family fled on a motorcycle, not knowing where to go or how long they would be away. They hid in a bush and survived on the little food they took as they hurriedly left home.

The nine day journey to Uganda was not as difficult as other refugees had experienced because they were fortunate to find vehicles to ferry them. But they are finding camp life challenging.

“The situation in the camp is difficult. The children are finding it difficult to adapt to the food that is available. Back at home, they always had milk but that is not the case here,” said Philip. “This place is cold and has plenty of mosquitoes. They are suffering from the flu as you can see.”

Not knowing how long it will be before they can return home, Philip would like to find ways to look after his family.

“I would like to plant some maize, millet and sesame to feed my family. Together with other refugees from South Sudan, we would like to organize ourselves into groups and get loans to start businesses.”

Volunteers from the Uganda Red Cross visit the refugee camps regularly to offer psychosocial support and to teach refugees about proper hygiene.

“My family is grateful for the support of the Red Cross volunteers. They cleared this place to make it more habitable. Although there are not many, we appreciate their visits.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal of 1,722,559 Swiss francs to enable the Uganda Red Cross to provide much needed assistance to these refugees. This appeal will improve the living conditions of 25,000 South Sudanese refugees by providing safe water, shelter, and improved access to health services.

When fleeing violence, families often become separated. The Uganda Red Cross has mobilized volunteers to help bring families back together. Next week on www.ifrc.org/africa, we will meet a mother who was able to track down her daughter, missing when the family fled violence in South Sudan.