Report from Fred Taban: Refugee From South Sudan and based in Rhino camp Arua Northern Uganda and working for CRESS
It is now 6 weeks ago that we were forced to evacuate from our peaceful Kajo-Keji to practically not knowing where to! 26/01/2017 will forever remain a day to recall until we return home.
CRESS Office Open
Today CRESS South Sudan office is set up in Arua, North Uganda thanks to God for leading me to a very Christian landlord whose property we have rented for the office at an incredibly low price. We need to thank God for this gift otherwise we would be paying some hefty sums. I have sent some pictures showing the exterior and interior of the office to give you some feel of what it looks like. Given our refugees status, we love the office premises and the neighbours around are very welcoming. By the beginning of April, we should be operating at full capacity.
Change Is Slow
It may seem like not much activity has happened in the last six weeks. To the Western perspective that is very true, but not for Africa, South Sudan and worse still when you are an uprooted refugee. However, the greatest achievements made were in assisting elderly persons and children safely get out of harm’s way, we successfully got out all the CRESS office items and the most sensitive clinic items. In terms of properties, we haven’t much loses thank God. As I write this brief note the clinic building is still intact with the few remaining items in place. And we are very confident that if the government troops don’t come to the area the clinic will remain safe. The people now carrying out great havoc of looting, destruction, raping and killings are not the rebels but the government troops. I wonder when will God tame these brutes of so called government soldiers who have for no reason become peoples’ enemy number one.
Clinic Must Open
Our biggest headache is getting a fairly suitable premises for the clinic. I have identified one but the landlord is dragging his feet in completing the construction works on the building. Last Tuesday (07/03/2017) I and Joel had a rather lengthy and tough meeting with him and have given him two weeks to seriously put effort into the works. It is not possible for us to get another building further a way from Mijale because the clinic would become inaccessible to the very people it intends to serve. We commit this into prayer and give some patience for we don’t know what God is holding up his sleeves! As soon as we have secured premises for the clinic we will recall the staff and start offering services.
I have drawn out an assessment plan which will take me to the refugees camp of Rhino Camp, Bidi Bidi, Imvepi and Morobi and Internally Displaced Persons camps of Logo, Keriwa and Ajio. So far I have been to: on Sunday the 05/03/2017 to Rhino Camp Refugees camp in the company of bishops Hillary of Yei and Seme of Panyana. On Tuesday the 07/03/2017, I was with the IDPs of Logo IDP camp in Liwolo, South Sudan. This coming week I am going to Imvepi, Bidi Bidi and Keriwa IDP. In all the camps I have been to the following needs are prevalent:- 1- lack of enough food to eat. This is worse in the IDPs camp where no food assistance has been received from the start (07 weeks ago), 2- Lack of shelter. People live under trees except the few who are lucky to get some plastic sheeting have erected very rudimentary structures for ‘tukuls’.
When the rains come, god alone knows what will be the fate of these human beings. 3- The few functioning primary schools in the camps are filled to extraordinary capacity (talk of 450 children crammed into a narrow space). Secondary, school going students are aimlessly loitering in the camps. Anti-social behaviours (early teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, drugs, etc) are likely to become rampant if these young people are engaged doing fruitful activities.
A whole nation is slowly edging towards total destruction if nothing is done immediately. 4- Health services are very basic and totally overwhelmed with the sheer number of sick cases reporting daily. 5- Water is a very serious and chronic problem with no immediate solution on sight. Water tankers supply the water to the camps on daily basis but because of the big numbers to deal with, a camp may receive the next water supply after two days! Water usage in families is currently restricted to drinking and cooking. Adults travel miles on foot or bicycles or motorcycles to the nearest river to bathe or laundry. For those who can afford a 20 litres jerrycan of water sells for about 35 pence (but this is not easy to get for a South Sudanese refugee!). 6- The rains are about to come if the season is good but worryingly the refugees have not been allocated any piece of land for crop growing. Secondly, the land on which most of the refugees have been settled is a rocky and barren land which cannot be used profitably for crop production. This is a very serious problem to our people who eek out their living from the land.
This is a simple brief and after I am done with my assessment I will produce a more detailed report which can be shared widely because it will be reflecting a comprehensive true picture of the refugee’s situation. Other players may be compromised in their work by many seen and unseen factors. But not me because I am not an observer or a humanitarian aid worker but I am a refugee. The struggles, pain and suffering I write about the refugees are my own as well. I am a victim as well. I don’t write somebody’s story from a distance. It is as well my story written from within.
What I have highlighted here need to be put into prayers and should push where ever you are and whoever you are into some deep thinking and soul searching. Together we can do something is my strong belief.
March 10th 2017