Letter from Dzaipi reception centre

By James Kamira

Child protection Facilitator, World Vision

when you look at your family happy, complete and together, does it ever cross your mind that it can be torn apart in a short period of time and your children begin to ask whether they will see you again or whether they will ever get a chance to meet any of their loved ones that were separated from them by war?

 Do you ever find yourself thinking about how your wife and children can survive in an environment away from home without you? How about if your wife was 6 months pregnant and you were abducted yet she had to run to the neighbouring country thousands of kilometres away from your home raged by war? Don’t you think if she managed to run with the children, they may have to survive without food for weeks or even months before reaching their safe destination? Well no one wants to ever think such scenarios can ever happen to their loved ones but let me tell you this; we all don’t know what tomorrow holds however much we may prepare for it. This is exactly what happened to the many South Sudanese mothers and children.

My first day in Dzaipi refugee reception centre is painted with lots of emotional memories. Children and women made the highest number of the total refugee population and because the established shelters were congested, many families camped under trees and old rugged buildings so as to get shed. Children wondered along the road sides, played next to burning rubbish while others squeezed themselves to play between cooking points all because there was no space to play. My worst memory is when I came across a mother under a tree with her malnourished child aged one and a half years, she was just waiting for the child to die because she had no food and breast milk. We rescued the child and the mother and referred them to Medical Teams International. Mothers would give birth under trees. In partnership with Uganda Red Cross, UNHCR community service and office of the Prime Minister’s  Officer, we moved under these trees to sensitise them on the available healthy services and the need to get closer than staying in bushes.

All this indicated that there was need to establish an information Desk where separated children, Un-accompanied minors, people with special needs (PSNs) and all children would come and seek guidance as well as referral. This was the second achievement in the first week much as we were still in the assessment phase. We set up a tent and the refugee community selected community volunteers who would seat under this tent to guide and refer whoever came there. Children also selected 3 girls and 2 boys to help on silent issues affecting children. It’s upon consultation with children and community that World Vision established child friendly spaces and Early Childhood development centres in the settlements. These provide a safe place and environment for children to play, psychosocial support and early development. While in our tent, I almost failed to give an answer to one girl who asked me; “James Kamira, do you think I will ever meet my mother again? I came here alone and I don’t have any one to stay with now.” This child was referred to Uganda Red Cross who were already handling tracing and thank God the tracing manager was a colleague I worked with while in the previous response in Bundibugyo for the Congolese refugees.

You will now agree with me that children and women are the most affected people in any environment ruined by conflict, ethnic distrusts or any other disaster. We ought to unit and plot a brave and steady way of protecting both boys and girls even when the family line is broken due to these disasters.