Every June 20, the World commemorates World Refugee Day. This day is saved to honour the spirited resilience of those citizens forced out of their homes to live in dire settlements. Many times they are vulnerable not only to the unrest that drove them out of home, but also eventually to diseases resulting from living in congested camps.
In October 2013, about 400 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after a crowded fishing boat that they were travelling in sank off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
A separate accident occurred in May this year where 17 people died when the boat carrying them from Libya to Southern Italy capsized. Two hundred of them were rescued. Hundreds of people flee strife from Africa and the Middle East to seek better lives in Europe. Given the prevailing conditions at home, it is justified to look for better socio-economic conditions abroad.
Currently, a number of citizens in different countries are experiencing hardship caused by war. The list includes Central African Republic, South Sudan and DRC, just to mention those. Local communities have been deprived of the chance to live peacefully because of unbearable conditions prevailing there.
Just in neighbouring South Sudan, clashes continue in many areas and a large number of people remain displaced in their own country and also abroad. In Uganda, refugees are currently settled at camps in districts including Arua, Adjumani, and Kiryandongo. Eighty seven per cent of this is women and children. This raises vulnerability.
District local governments are definitely constraint in their efforts to respond to the needs of this suffering vulnerable population.
To ensure that the health and welfare needs of vulnerable groups, a host of aid agencies have joined hands.
With the blessing of government of Uganda, humanitarian agencies have provided psychosocial support, protection, community services and shelter to the displaced and persons with specific needs. They have also invested heavily in water and sanitation needs of refugee communities. This has been improved through provision of clean and safe water.
Facilities have been put in place to provide water. Supply of safe water is being provided through hand pumps, motorised boreholes and water trucking.
Water user committees have been established and training at all water points are been carried out with the support of elected refugee leaders. User committees help to maintain good sanitation at water points.
Access to latrine facilities has been increased through the provision of communal latrines around all settlements. Pit latrine digging kits are distributed to households that are willing to dig their own latrines.
Future initiatives such as distribution of latrine stance slabs, iron sheets, cement and affordable materials to families will facilitate good sanitation through controlling communities’ habit of indiscriminate human waste disposal. Given recurrence of cholera outbreaks in refugee camps, hygiene promotion activities were intensified and washing soap provided.
Young children whose education have been interfered with are being enrolled in schools to enable them continue schooling. Food and malnutrition problems of children are also been solved, especially breast feeding mothers. Aid agencies continue to provide medication of vulnerable communities that fall sick.
They provide mosquito nets and also treat people. As we commemorate World Refugee Day, let us be grateful to all those humanitarian agencies for their generosity in ensuring that effects of human suffering as a result of war is averted. Special hurrah to Lutheran World Federation for the impact created through their interventions in water, sanitation, health and education.
Simon J. Mone is a civil engineer