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Dignity for Refugees with Special Needs in Uganda

For the last two years we’ve been working in Northern Uganda to respond to the influx of South Sudanese refugees that fled here due to war. We responded through the WASH program—we constructed  770 communal pit latrines along with hand washing stations. PSNs (People with Special Needs) are people who are not able to build the latrines themselves– the elderly, disabled, child headed households, and single female headed households. 

We’ve been working in Northern Uganda to respond to the influx of South Sudanese refugees.

Over 80% of the refugees are women and children. We couldn’t help but notice that PSNs with their own toilets took more ownership and better maintained their latrines compared to communal latrines. Of course, the dignity of having their own facilities was a great relief of the embarrassment that normally comes with a shared facility in such a setting.

We did health and hygiene promotion through provision of hygiene kits and training. The kits included soap and hand washing facilities and in this way it enhanced the hand washing capacity of the households so that we could mitigate dysentery and other water-borne diseases which could be prevented in the settlements. We did this in the refugee settlements and made a 30% contribution towards latrines for PSNs in the host communities as well, as part of the government’s instructions to help keep the peace between the newcomers and the Ugandans.

There has been no cholera even during the wet season!

We’ve seen some great results in reduction in the dysentery levels and we’ve noticed that the level of hygiene in the society is high with no open defecation. There has been no cholera even during the wet season! The level of pit latrine coverage has gone up from 30% to 40%. That means there is still a big gap to reach out to individual households, especially for PSNs.

There is also need for shelter. While the pit latrines are good, PSN households’ tarpaulins are dilapidated now and during the dry and wet seasons shelter is always a challenge for these households.

Dominic, a South Sudanese refugee in the Bidibidi settlement, shares his story: 

“My name is Dominic and I am 41 years old. Before the war broke out in South Sudan I was a dentist and owned my own hotel. Before the war broke out it was possible to do a little business and get some money out of it. But then life started changing in 2013 when leadership began to become corrupted.

I started shifting my family to the border of Uganda in preparation and we moved here in December 2016. It made me feel sad to hear my children complain and cry about how what they were eating was not good. But at least in Uganda we were free. You don’t hear gun shots. In South Sudan you buy your life with money and if you don’t have money, you don’t have a life.

In South Sudan you buy your life with money.

Many people were being killed. You would see your brothers lying on the road, dying out there. They would kill and rape people and do whatever they wanted. I had to quit the country. On the road coming here we had no extra clothes and the children would be crying and quite sad. Complaining and crying because what they are eating is not good.

On the way here I came across a group of three children aged 6, 9, and 11. They told me that their mother was slaughtered and their father was a soldier and was killed. So I came up to the UNHCR checkpoint and registered them. I already have six children and now I have nine.

On the way here I came across a group of three children aged 6, 9, and 11.

I like kids because of Christ. Staying with children, you forget about troubles. In my mind, I have a bright future because of them. If I am alive I know they will come and support me. I don’t want them to know anything of war. I want to teach them how to dig in the garden, how to make houses and make money. I love my country and I’m planning to go back to South Sudan but here it is safe and stable security wise.

I am HIV positive and I have orphans in my home so I was identified as someone with special needs. I came to be identified by World Renew and they registered me into the program where they would be building latrines.

I like kids because of Christ.

We used to have a communal latrine that was used by more than 10 households with over 50 persons using it. Because of the communal latrine there were lots of flies and the risk of disease was high. Now that our family has our own unit, things are much better and we are thankful.”

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