(VATICAN RADIO) More than 2,000 refugees are arriving in Northern Uganda daily after fleeing the on-going threat of violence in war-torn South Sudan. 90% of the people crossing are women and children, including vulnerable mothers with newborn babies. Thousands are being relocated to camps and reception centres, and the number of new arrivals is expected to rise in the coming days.
Katie Ascough spoke with Justine Abenaitwe, Save the Children’s Ugandan Humanitarian Manager, who is currently working on the field, to find out more about what Save the Children is doing to help these refugee children.
Save the Children is deeply concerned about the increasing number of unaccompanied and separated children who have made the journey alone and are susceptible to neglect or abuse. Even without the risk of being killed in the conflict, South Sudan is statistically the worst place in the world to be a child; half of them are not in school.
Most refugees are coming from Eastern Equatoria state in addition to smaller numbers from Juba, with renewed sporadic fighting and hunger cited as the main reasons for flight. In the first five months of the year, the number of severely malnourished children admitted to Save the Children centres has tripled in comparison to the same period last year.
Ms. Abenaitwe said that these people only got a chance to leave South Sudan when civilian vehicles, which had been waiting in hiding, joined a secure convoy of the Uganda People’s Defence Force across the border. In a desperate attempt to abscond from their native land, lone travellers ran and hopped onto some of the trucks to make their grand escape. Many of these people were running away from their homes and their families, to find a new life with less terror and violence.
The daily number of refugees arriving into Uganda has increased nearly ten-fold since the fighting escalated in South Sudan less than two weeks ago. One refugee told Save the Children that many South Sudanese men are staying in the country to fight, including boys as young as 13 years old.
For those who have managed to cross the border, Save the Children is currently working on the construction of Child Friendly Spaces where three to six-year-olds will come for school lessons. They are also providing clothes, blankets, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and basic cooking utensils, as well as sensitising refugees on child protection issues, and setting up registration programs in the attempt to reunite families
Through the work of honourable organisations like Save the Children, the suffering and the chaos for these South Sudanese refugees will be reduced. To follow their progress and donate toward their wonderful, life-changing (and saving) efforts, you can visit their website “Save the Children Uganda” by clicking here.
Even Pope Francis himself has gotten personally involved, sending a special envoy to South Sudan earlier this month. These refugees rely on our help.