Helping Refugees in Uganda

August 2, 2013 • Uganda
Asiinata Nyabura is thankful for the help she is receiving at the transit camp, including the jerry cans that allow her to carry water.

Samaritan’s Purse is providing aid as unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to refugees pouring across the border into Uganda

Mbugu Kyabiya heard that the rebels were coming toward his village in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He gathered his wife and seven children and ran into the bush. But at 8 a.m., the rebels found them. They captured Mbugu and several other men in the area. Although they planned to kill the men, they were stopped after two hours by the Congolese army, and they let the captives go.

Fighting erupted in the eastern part of the DRC on July 11. A rebel group, defectors from the Congolese army, attacked several towns, forcing more than 100,000 to flee. Bombings and gunshots could be heard from border points in nearby Uganda.

GiveArmed groups have been fighting government forces for more than a year. More than 75,000 refugees have fled to settlement camps in Uganda where Samaritan’s Purse is providing necessities for people who have nothing. When the violence erupted again recently, it added to an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region.

After Mbugu escaped, he hid in the bush for three days. When he saw a crowd of people fleeing for Uganda, he followed them. Once he crossed the border, he contacted his family and found that they were at a transit center 12 kilometers from the border.

More than 18,000 refugees have been forced to settle at the center. Many had no time to pack their belongings or no strength to carry them and arrived with nothing. Aid agencies are coordinating with the Ugandan government to meet the needs of the refugees. With clean water, latrines, and hand washing and bathing stations, sanitation concerns are improving, and the spread of disease is becoming less of a concern.

A WEEK IN A REFUGEE CAMP: Two Samaritan’s Purse interns who spent time at the transit center blogged about their experiences.

Samaritan’s Purse is here, helping meet the critical needs of clean water, sanitation, and shelter at the transit center. Since we arrived, we have trucked 320,000 liters of water, built 80 latrines, 40 bathing shelters, and 20 hand washing stations, and installed two water storage units. As the transit center grows, willing refugees are being relocated to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. Samaritan’s Purse is moving our focus to this area.


Samaritan’s Purse is building a drainage system in the transit center to help prevent the spread of disease.

“These people literally had to flee for their lives,” said Seth Williamson, who is leading the Samaritan’s Purse response. “They brought little to nothing with them. Many had to stay in the jungles for several days before it was safe enough to cross the border to Uganda. Currently, many of these refugees are sleeping outside without suitable shelter, and it’s cold and wet in the mountainous area where these refugees are currently staying.”

Mbugu reunited with his family at the center, but life hasn’t been easy.

“Before the war, we had a peaceful life,” Mbugu said. “I grew cash crops and used the money I earned to support my family. But now, we do not have anything, and I have no livelihood to support my family.”

Mbugu’s family doesn’t have enough food or other necessities. His children were in school in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but currently they aren’t learning. Mbugu is grateful for the water that Samaritan’s Purse has provided, but he longs for his spiritual needs to be met too.

“We want a church so that we can praise and worship God together,” he said. “God is on our side.”

"When you have nothing like us, you don't think about the future," Sufina said. "For now, we only think about eating and sleeping."

“When you have nothing like us, you don’t think about the future,” Sufina said. “For now, we only think about eating and sleeping.”

Sufina Mbikaliye is another refugee in the center. Rebels attacked her village early on a Thursday morning. When her brother, a shop owner, saw that they were looting, he tried to defend his property. The rebels killed him, and Sufina ran from the village in terror with her three children and extended family.

Sufina and her family are among those who are caught up in the renewed hostilities. They were able to reach the border of Uganda within a day and then quickly traveled to a transit center 12 miles away.

Sufina’s family has been living in the transit center for two weeks now. She said she is not thinking about the future because she has nothing to return to. Instead, she is only focused on meeting basic necessities.

“In our family, there are nine children, and they must share one plate,” she said. “We are growing thin.”

"Whenever I am worried, I turn to God to give me strength," Batrumayo said.

“Whenever I am worried, I turn to God to give me strength,” Batrumayo said.

A pastor in the camp, Batrumayo Anikas, hopes that people don’t turn away from God or blame Him for the difficulties they are facing. He, his wife, and six children were told by the rebels that they had to leave their home within two days. Since then, they have lived together in a tent in the transit center. They don’t have any items other than the clothes they are wearing.

“I do not have any plans, but I am always thinking about my children’s future,” he said. “When we were in DRC, the children were in school. But now they aren’t. We left behind our gardens and property, and we have no money.”

One of the main items Batrumayo wants is a Bible. He left his at home, and he wants to continue reading and teaching.

Please pray for the refugees as they adjust to life at the transit center and as they begin moving to the settlement. Pray that their needs are met and that Samaritan’s Purse is able to find the most effective way to meet those needs.

Uganda Projects Samaritan’s Purse has been active across Uganda since the late 1990s and is currently working to meet the needs of these refugees by helping to provide food, water, latrines and other hygiene items, and temporary shelter. Whether drilling wells, empowering women to start a business, distributing food to refugees, spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS, or providing livestock to impoverished families, our aim is to demonstrate the love of God to individuals and communities in great need.

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