Whenever we find ourselves against the wall, our thinking tends towards doom, with hopelessness getting the better of us. This is exactly the feeling that thousands of people who have fled from violence at home and have taken refuge in odd settlement situations.
By the end of year 2013, Uganda ranked among the top 20 refugee hosting countries in the world, supporting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Adjumani, Arua, Kiryandongo, Kyangwali, Lobule, and Rwamwanja refugee settlement camps. Until the war situation back home is brought under control, many people definitely know that life in IDP camps will continue for a while. So with the indefinite continued stay in camps, the puzzle that requires immediate answer is, ‘are there any opportunities in camps for IDPs to seize?’ The answer should be yes.
A number of opportunities exist that IDPs can exploit. Vast amounts of land are available around camps that can be rented from owners for cultivation. Upon agreement, optimum utilisation of such land will provide abundant food. It also reduces dependency on food rationing by World Food Programme and other aid agencies. Since about 75 per cent of the camp population reportedly consist of children, the food harvested from hired land can be used to provide nutritious variety. Surplus harvests can then be sold and proceeds used to uplift income levels of IDPs. It will also enable parents to take their children to school.
IDPs can commute to town and compete for available ventures with the rest of the population.
Opportunities available include baking pan cakes, vending food, brick making, etc. Labour is also required when aid workers construct settlement shelters, latrines, community water points and during opening up community access roads.
The youth in camp can also join men and women youth groups in micro-credit savings. IDPs can also take advantage of free trainings that are offered by aid agencies in camps. Trainings add value and ensure that they get useful skills for income generation.
Skills in hand pump repair, community psychosocial support and counselling also enables IDP youths to add to their growing livelihoods. IDPs can actually turn their adversity into opportunities so let us not despair, just go out and grab any that is available.