The transit camp close to the Congolese border has become a temporary place of refuge for thousands of people. Photo: humedica/Stefanie Huisgen
Lots of talks and friendly encounters
Coordination of relief measures has started
Last Friday Heidi Nicklin (coordinator) and Stefanie Huisgen (media coordinator) set out for the south of Uganda, in order to initiate the humedica relief measures at the Nyakabande refugee camp near Kisoro. These measures are supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. About 15,700 persons have fled the violent riots in their home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and are now seeking refuge and peace at the reception camps in Uganda, which are located close to the border. This morning, we have received reports about the two coordinators’ first impressions from the heart of Africa:
“We moved into our accommodation at the St. Francis Hospitals Mutolere on the outskirts of Kisoro on Saturday afternoon and we took advantage of the weekend to get to know our new environment. Both at the hospital facilities and in the streets of the town we met people who greeted us in a friendly way and inquired about our mission.
We replied that we were here to take care of the Congolese refugees at the camp. The reactions to our explanation were exclusively positive; people nodded in agreement and expressed warm words of gratitude for our commitment.
Two days later, our agenda included lots of talks to representatives of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), and the URCS (Uganda Red Cross Society), who coordinate the existing relief measures in Uganda. And for the first time we were also able to assess the situation at the refugee camp ourselves.
Together with Pontius Mayunga, the contact person for humedica at the Mutolere Hospital, and orderly Pascal Nsekuye, who will assist us with the coordination of our refugee relief measures, we set out to Nyakabande. We reached the camp, which is at a distance of merely 3.5 kilometres, on a bumpy dirt road. Lots of children waved at us excitedly from the roadside.
Our first destination on this morning was the health station, which is run by local staff and medical staff of the organisation MTI (Medical Teams International), which humedica has already cooperated with in the past. After a first examination at camp, the patients have to walk a distance of about 250 metres in order to receive more specific medical treatment. Those who cannot walk this distance because they are too weak or have an injury to their legs, are taken here by an ambulance.
When we arrived, about 30 persons were waiting for treatment at the Health Post. According to an explanation by MTI physician Dr. Isaac Milton Odongo, the most common disease patterns were respiratory diseases, diarrhoea, skin diseases and eye infections. The US organisation has sent out another team of six members in order to improve treatment for injured or ill refugees. This team is expected to arrive at Kisoro in the days to come.
While the relief measures of MTI mostly focus on treating patients at the external health post, humedica will concentrate its commitment rather on aid immediately at the refugee camp. First medical aid is to be offered at camp with the help of a doctor and a nurse. This is all the more important, as many of the refugees suffer from severe injuries and need professional treatment as soon as possible.
“Many of the refugees who come to Nyakabande were hit by bullets and their clothes are in rags”, reported Esau Bahikayo, who works at the office of the Prime Minister of Uganda, during a large discussion round at the refugee camp.
5,012 persons are currently living at Nyakabande camp, which can take in up to 6,500 persons. An average number of 150 new refugees arrive per day. The plan is that the Congolese refugees, who are accommodated in separate tents for men and women that have been set up cheek by jowl, leave the transit camp after two weeks and be brought to the permanent camp to Rwamwanja, which has a capacity of 35,000 persons.
However, as this reception camp is located 300 kilometres further north and further into the country of Uganda, many refugees are not sure if they should really set out on this long journey. For many of those affected the thought of giving up their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo forever and of beginning a new life in another place is still too painful. "But nevertheless, the people are slowly loosing any hope that they will be able to return to their homes one day", told Esau Bahikayo.
Once a week, a convoy sets out to Rwamwanja, if necessary also twice a week. The next trip will take place on Thursday and it will last nine hours. For 1,000 to 2,000 Congolese refugees it will be a trip into a more hopeful future. A future in which someday they will be able to provide for themselves once more, and to build up a new home. A home in safety.
Over the next five months, the humedica commitment will above all focus on medical teams and the distribution of relief goods, in particular blankets and warm clothes, in Nyakabande. You can contribute to giving the refugees new courage and the perspective for a better future in peace by means of making a targeted donation. Wakoze – thank you very much!”
humedica e. V.
Donation reference “Refugee relief Uganda”
Account 47 47
Bank Code 734 500 00
SWIFT-Code: BYLA DE M1 KFB