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Agony and Tragedy

Editor’s Note: Please be aware that this blog contains a reference to suicide.

The agony of displacement due to insurgency and civil unrest in my home country has left many homeless, missing loved ones, and lonely. Desperate situations engulf many people’s livelihoods.

The major news highlights the great suffering of those on the frontlines of wars, while there are millions under untold suffering. Our recent intervention in the Rhino Camp refugee settlement in the West Nile region intended to assess the current livelihood challenges and opportunities for the 1,567,000 people. The numbers imply that an average of 6 persons per household is located on a 30 by 30-metre piece of land. This includes a house and the rest of the space is for agricultural works especially vegetables to feed the household members, in addition to what the UN World Food Program ration would provide.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic with its related funding reductions, food ratios have drastically reduced considerably. Each household member receives 1.5 kg of maize grain and a similar amount of beans for a month. Alternatively people receive UGX 1400 ($0.38 USD) per person for a month. However, the situation is further aggravated by the prioritisation process of providing such food rations for the marginalised, especially elderly, sickly and physically impaired persons of concern.

During the food rations the demographic figures were helpful, but what further considerations needed attention especially stakeholder engagement? 

A story is told of a woman with 6 children who went to pick up the monthly ration only to be told she does not qualify to receive the food ration. She had been categorised as one able because of her education as a teacher. She is not employed in the settlement schools and has no gainful earning of any income. Four out of the six children she takes care of were unaccompanied minors under her care.

With deep disappointment the woman picked some stones and carried them into the bag she had taken to pick food from the centre and headed home. The children were excited to receive their mother back home loaded with a sackful of the expected food ratio for the month. She asked her children to go for firewood as she prepared the source pan and covered the stones in the saucepan and set it on the cooking stove. She left the children watching over the cooking pot with a hope for the children that some meal will be ready. After some hours the woman was found dead hanging on the branch of a tree.

This scenario provoked us to think about how often our good intentions can negatively impact generations. Considering the unaccompanied minors and orphans this is more than a double tragedy.  What then informs our fundamental considerations and intentions before we act? For instance, during the food rations the demographic figures were helpful, but what further considerations needed attention especially stakeholder engagement? 

While the overall intention of building an integrated, resilient, and self-sustaining food secure refugee community is the ideal, how about the pending critical land and input access issues given the 30 by 30-metre pieces of land? Access to arable land by the refugees from the neighbouring host communities is still a huge challenge. There are justice and advocacy issues for the two communities to have peaceful co-existence This points to an impending crisis over crisis in the world.

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash


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