My Dear Reader,
I spent the last Christmas in Rhino Camp Refugees Settlement, North Uganda. It is not particularly a place really fit for human settlement but because one is a refugee it becomes far better than one’s own country!
Rhino Camp is situated North West of Uganda along the River Nile valley belt close (about 30 miles) to the South Sudan border (you can google it up!). The environment is semi arid (low rainfall in the year in comparison to the rest of the country). The temperatures are always above 27°C year round. Mosquitoes are in their millions, keeping the conversation going all night and malaria is a household item!! The camp is a UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) property but services like Health, Education etc are implemented by various agencies to the thousand hundreds of refugees (figures are conflicting but what I know is the number has quadrupled say 3 years ago and keeps growing in thousands on a daily basis). WFP (World Food Programme) distributes a monthly basic food (maize grains, beans and cooking oil) ratio not to fatten but to keep one alive. Having a barely enough meal once a day is the rule of living here.
Forget about nutritious food like meat, fruits etc these are luxury items. There are virtually no meaningful economic activities the refugees are engaged in at the moment for two main reasons: lack of start up capital and low buying power of the refugees community. You see that 95% of the refugees are traumatised. Today the level of hopelessness, hate and desperation amongst the refugees is very alarming compared to 6 or 7 years ago, something (like counselling for trauma healing, seminars and forgiveness, reconciliation and peaceful living ) urgently needs to be done.
Certainly one can’t live in Rhino Camp by choice, it is not the best of places to live in but I and hundreds of thousands of fellow refugees have lived here now for no less than 30 years (1990 to 2005 and 2012 to date)
Christmas in Africa is characterised by going to church, eating good food (meat, chicken with rice!) and to crown it all a new dress for all to see and receive all those nice compliments. These make sense where poor quality and quantity of food is the norm and to get a new dress once a year is a blessing and luxury than a necessity. I and the family had our 2016 Christmas lunch (and following 4 days) with some of the desperate children in the refugees camp.
We prayed, feasted and spent time with them. We were able to get them some simple used clothes to wear as part of the celebrations! That gave each child beneficiary a smile on their worn faces.98% of the children are naked, hungry, lack love and care and are traumatised. Many of these children are unaccompanied. They are either orphans (parents killed), single parent (mother) or got separated from and parents’ whereabouts not yet established. The last Christmas made them experience God’s love, peace and care in the midst of the circumstances they are innocently subjected to. I truly found joy, peace and happiness this Christmas as we did reach out to these hurting and most vulnerable children.
As a family we say thank you for making this last Christmas one of the most joyous for more than 700 children. 2016 years ago Jesus said and still says, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers you do unto me. When I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was naked you gave me your coat. When I was a stranger, we gave me fellowship, now enter into the kingdom of my Father!” I don’t know how to thank everyone for listening to and doing what God’s voice said. I was only a mere messenger for such a message…..you didn’t let me down BUT made me happy, how much more happy must God be with you?
The money you willingly and happily gave have done more than I had bargained for! I thought of and hoped to get very small help just to spend on very few children (symbolic) BUT it turned out differently, like the miracle of the fish and bread!
On the Christmas day we gave out used clothes and fed over 700 children! And we are NOT yet done as I write this. With the available remaining money, we are likely to clothe another 700 children and some insecticide treated mosquito nets for pregnant mothers and children under 05 years as a malaria prevention measure.
Expect to hear more from me for I am not yet totally done!
Fred Taban, January 17th 2017