By Derrick Kyatuka
The work of humanitarian workers is challenging and often it is said, 'theirs is a calling and certainly not for the faint hearted'.
Imagine sleeping in tents, which you have to share with at least seven people? And that’s not all, sometimes you have to share the tent with creeping creatures such as lizards, snakes and scorpions.
This is the reality for Samia Dakai, a child protection officer with World Vision, and many others working in Imvepi refugee settlement. She has been living in a tent since August of 2016.
“When I joined the refugee emergency response, the tents were very few, there were at least seven people sharing a single tent,” Samia explains.
It was much relief when the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provided some more tents to World Vision staff, to aid ease the congestion. “With additional tents, we had two or three people sharing a tent.”
But, even with additional tents, staff still had to endure the effects of extreme hot temperatures especially during the day. “The tents would heat up so fast in the day,” Samia says. Meanwhile in the nights, the tents would get extremely cold. It was worse during the cold and rainy seasons,” Samia recalls.
Over time, the tents were worn out and began leaking, becoming a habitat of other creatures such as lizards, snakes and scorpions had begun to make the tents their homes too, making life unbearable for the staff.
“During the rainy season, the tents would leak and one had to stand in a corner of the tent the entire night. Sometimes the hailstorm would blow way the tent and all of our belongings would be destroyed. That is not all.
“When you have to share a small space with several other people, you no longer enjoy privacy. You have no option but to get used to it,” Samia observes.
When Edna Andru, also a child protection officer, first reported to her workstation and learnt that she would be staying in the tent, she was shocked. “I started imagining how life living in a tent would be as I had never experienced it before,” she says.
“The only people I had seen stay in tents were soldiers and I felt that I would not be secure enough staying in a tent. I was however encouraged to find other staff living there and that gave me more courage,” Edna says,
The zip on Edna’s tent was faulty. This made it easy for the rats, lizards, snakes and other creatures to enter the tent.
“When you sleep in a tent, you don’t’ feel as secure as you would in a house, and that’s the feeling I always got. The fact that we were sharing tents, made this less scary.
After years, for some months, of tent life, the staff can now take a huge sigh of relief.
The six-block housing project supported by World Vision US and the World Food Programme will see all World Vision field staff who have been living in tents move to more comfortable and permanent structures that are less congested.
Rogers Adriko, World Vision staff in charge of the livelihoods project recounts how staff had to be relocated to Arua, about 64 km away from Imvepi, each time it rained and this negatively interfered with work.
According to Thomas Ndyanabo, World Vision district area coordinator, the intervention is timely and it will boost staff morale towards work.
“I want to thank the World Food Programme and World Vision US for this generosity toward our staff, that has seen them transition from living in tents to permanent housing.”
Staff have had to endure some challenging circumstances. During the rainy season we would evacuate staff and this has been very costly. The new housing will continue to boost the staff morale, increase their productivity and bring a sense of renewed energy into the response,” Ndyanabo says.
Featured image: The new housing structures that World Vision field based refugee response staff will be staying in