Making the Best of a Situation
by Damaris Frick
AT the end of 2007, disputes about the election in Kenya resulted in violent clashes. This and ongoing land conflicts resulted in many people fleeing their homes, some of whom left Kenya in search of safety. At least 12,000 people are thought to have sought refuge in neighbouring Uganda.
From the early stages of the refugee situation, Salvation Army Emergency Services worked in host communities and with other agencies in the large Mulanda Camp near the border.
Many people have experienced terrible things. David Kamau, one refugee, told us his uncle and his grandmother were killed because of the tribe they belonged to. He couldn’t even bury them. He and his family fled to Uganda and are now living in tent number 95 in Mulanda Camp. Because of conflicts over land that go back to colonial times he doubts they will be able to return home in the near future.
In the camp he offered his services as a volunteer. ‘I can’t just sit around doing nothing,’ he said. ‘We all have to work together to make the best of the situation.’ David is now in charge of a group of HIV/Aids patients. For vulnerable people like them the situation is especially grim.
|Kenyan Salvationist Ann Shigali and family outside their tent in Mulanda Camp, Uganda|
|Refugee-turned-volunteer David Kamau with his wife|
More than 700 families are currently living in the camp. Various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) take care of the most-important needs but there are still significant gaps. One of The Salvation Army’s first tasks was to provide 1,000 rolls of toilet paper. Each family gets only one roll per week – to be used sparingly!
Walking through the camp we were greeted by Ann Shigali and her brother and sister-in-law, all Kenyan Salvationists. They were excited about The Salvation Army working in the camp. Ann’s brother is helping with the distribution and confirmed with us that the toilet paper was given to each family and was very much appreciated.
Last Friday there was a big party in the camp, celebrating ‘Two months in Mulanda Camp’. It was at the same time touching, sad and beautiful how people in the camp used a day like this to organise a party. It was a great party with food, music, drama, dance and a beauty contest. Football, volleyball and netball tournaments were held (refugees versus stakeholders) and the cheers were loud when it came to penalty shoot-outs and the refugees beat the stakeholders.
There will be enough work for us in the camp. Charcoal, toilet paper, and kerosene lamps are some of the things the Salvation Army Emergency Services is now providing for these 700 families. The distribution will be carried out in cooperation with UNHCR and Red Cross Uganda to avoid confusion and duplication. We will also supply some supplementary food for children under five years and for HIV/Aids patients. David had organised a meeting with the patients group and Theresa, the chairlady, spoke for all when she said: ‘Thank you for your help. We are so grateful.’
Many people are suffering and are in need of the most basic things to survive. The numbers seem overwhelming. But the work we do, the assistance we provide is not about large numbers. It is about individual people like Theresa, David Kamau, Ann Shigali and others in a similar plight.
Damaris Frick is a member of The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services team