2 March 2014

Africa: Refugees By the Thousands Search for Safety in Uganda

Two months after violence broke out in South Sudan, there is still a flurry of activity at the Nyumanzi transit centre in Adjumani District in northwest Uganda, the first stop for refugees fleeing to safety. Thousands are waiting for their turn to be moved from this transit centre to settlement camps within the district. Trucks are lining up to ferry them to what they will call home for the unforeseen future.

A volunteer with the Uganda Red Cross Society is standing on a truck calling out the names of those who are scheduled to board. One by one they come forward; men, women, teenage children, little boys and girls, and babies. The elderly are less in number and are not left behind, many being assisted to climb onto the high truck. As soon as the list is exhausted, the volunteer bolts the doors of the truck and flags it off.

"The first refugees arrived in Uganda on 18 December 2013. They are registered at the reception centre at the border post of Elegu then brought to the Nyumanzi transit centre," said Patricia Kinyaa Idro, the emergency response focal person at the Adjumani Branch of the Uganda Red Cross. "Upon arrival here, they are again registered and wait to be ferried to settlement camps. It is only when the camps are prepared for them that they can be moved. Relocation is based on a first-come, first-serve basis. It can take as long as one week before this happens. Our volunteers are at hand to help them settle in the camps."

Just as the trucks drive off, loaded with people, another drives in with a new lot of refugees, weary from the long journey they have endured over several weeks. Since December, more than 48,000 refugees have made the trek.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal of 1,722,559 Swiss francs (Uganda Population Movement Emergency Appeal) to enable the Uganda Red Cross to provide much needed assistance to these refugees. This includes registration at reception, transit and settlement camps, first aid, psychosocial support, hygiene promotion, provision of non-food relief items and restoring family links.

The Uganda Red Cross is working in coordination with the government and other humanitarian organizations in this operation.

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