By CAFOMI Communications unit
“My late husband and I were planning to ensure our children have a proper upbringing. Unfortunately with the demise of their father who was killed shortly after deadly clashes erupted between armed militia groups in the Congo now that seems to be an impossible dream. With the kind of situation I’m in, here in Uganda I have nothing to offer to my children. I dropped out of school when I was still young, because I earlier lost my parents in the same tribal conflict. Life is so difficult when you have to sleep only to wake up in the same hopeless conditions, is there a way I can be helped? Can I ever heal from this pain I’m going through? Will I ever get something to do and earn a living again? Will my children ever have a proper life and good education?”
These were the heart-wrenching words of a 27-year old Congolese refugee currently living at Zeu Farm Institute, an old training Centre for farmers, which is now serving as a quarantine facility for the new arrival refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Zombo district, West Nile region in Uganda.
Ayerango is taking care of three children, Beroca, 15 years, Erick, 12 years and Mungudit, 10 years, the three belong to her deceased husband, she lost her own due to poor health conditions in the Congo. Ayerango is among an estimated 45,000 of people who fled attacks in eastern DRC that erupted in May.
Beginning of July (1-3) 2020, Uganda fulfilled her obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights. The country temporarily re-opened two border crossing points for three days, through Guladjo and Mount Zeu in Zombo district, to provide relief and protection to Congolese asylum seekers who were stranded at the border, due to Covid-19 SOPs that resulted into boarder closure.
According to William Ngeze Protection officer UNHCR Arua and Team Leader emergency response team at Zeu IQC, 3056 asylum-seekers crossed into Uganda, they were received and quarantined at Zeu IQC in Zombo district under the guidance of Ministry of Health (MoH) Uganda and Health partners.
“The group was tested upon arrival and two weeks later we were able to confirm that they were all negative, 83 % of the POCs were women and children.” Ngenze said.
In partnership with Malteser International (MI), Care and Assistance for forced Migrants (CAFOMI) distributed play materials for recreational activities for child friendly services and clothes, conducted child protection and community entry coordination meetings, case by case support to vulnerable children, supplied WASH related and COVID-19 Prevention material for child protection in Zombo district.
This initiative is part of a project titled “Emergency response project to support newly arriving refugee children from DRC in Zombo” Funded by MI and Implemented CAFOMI. The project aimed at improving the material and development needs of newly arriving vulnerable refugee children from DRC with age-appropriate activities in Zombo district.
Piracel (left) and Yikparwoth (right) were very excited to receive new clothes and shoes, these will help to improve hygiene since they will be able to wash and change. Photo credit N.S. Mugarura.
Amiti Rose, Child Protection Officer CAFOMI said that they were targeting age groups between newly born to 15 years, 2 bales of second hand clothing comprising of baby rummage grade 1, mixed rummage 5-12 years, and play items were distributed. This was a joint exercise which saw the participation of all the partners. 430 children (195 girls and 235 boys) received the clothes. 21 baby overalls were handed over to International Rescue Committee (IRC) the health partner at the IQC, to cater for mothers who deliver in the clinic.
Children playing cards (left) and football (right), play therapy is one of MHPSS approach that was used by CAFOMI at Zeu IQC. Photo credit N.S. Mugarura (left) & Nyokabi Kahura (right)
“The play items distributed to the refugee children will help in restoring a feeling of normality and continuity. However, most children expressed the need to be reunified with their parents who had returned back to the villages. Some were left under the care of Grandmothers who are over 70 years old and could not provide adequate care.” Amiti said.
Due to inadequate care, cases of malnutrition amongst the children were noticed. Shalom Akullo, Nutritionist, Andre Foods International (AFI) said that they screened children below 5 years, pregnant and lactating mothers out of a total of 555, 14 were malnourished and 4 with severe acute malnutrition.
“We are conducting nutrition counseling and encouraging them to eat available hot meals, and also eat supplementary nutrition provided by UNHCR. More so we are enrolling children at risk on targeted supplementary feeding programme. However, there is still need for more support to improve children nutrition at Zeu IQC.” Akullo said.
On his visit to Zeu IQC, Hosana Adisu, country coordinator MI Uganda, said that it’s visible the play and recreational items distributed have no doubt improved the wellbeing of children which is very important in terms of psychosocial support and development needs of the children.
“I was very happy to see children playing football, cards and skipping ropes. I noticed that there is more support required, we will continue our discussions between CAFOMI and MI to strengthen our partnership and response to the humanitarian crisis at Zeu IQC in the coming weeks.” Hosana said.
Samuel Mugisha, SGBV and Mental health officer, CAFOMI recommends that there is need for humanitarian aid partners to find holistic ways of addressing both physical and psychological needs for the refugees. Need to increase the number of professional therapists who should include Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Counselors to attend to psychological needs of the refugees. Need to conduct mental health awareness among the refugees so as to keep them informed of the scientific as opposed to non-scientific approaches in dealing with Psychological challenges, and the need to increase the funding to cater for MHPSS.