Uganda

UGANDA: Refugees receive critical food aid, support for farming

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Salesian missionaries in Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp provide food aid to 800 thanks to funding from Salesian Missions

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries living and working at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda have been able to provide food aid to 800 people at the camp thanks to funding from Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp is currently home to more than 56,000 refugees and asylum seekers. It was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. Several agencies are involved in providing food and education within Palabek. While some have left because of the pandemic, Salesians have remained.

Even before COVID-19, living conditions in Palabek were not easy. Food distribution was scarce and there were difficulties in accessing drinking water. With the arrival of the pandemic, everything has become even more complicated. The amount of food delivered to refugees once a month has been reduced by 30 percent, classes and activities were suspended, and episodes of violence, alcoholism, and teenage pregnancies began. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warns that unless urgent action is taken to address the situation, levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anemia are expected to rise, especially among children.

"With Salesian Missions support we have been able to make around 800 bags with food in the month of November," said Father Ubaldino, a Salesian missionary working at Palabek. "We will be able to provide almost the same quantity for Christians in the camp in addition to providing blankets, buckets, cooking oil and soap."

Fr. Ubaldino added, "This donation is greatly appreciated because there is hunger and malnutrition and other nutritional deficiencies among the refugees. This creates much frustration, anger and other social disturbances. Salesians have distributed many tons of food and clothing, especially to the poorest. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families have also been supported with seeds and agricultural tools."

In addition to providing food directly, Salesian missionaries are working to counter the food shortage through the cultivation of food including cereals, vegetables, and if possible, some cash crops such as sim sim, groundnuts and sunflower. The goals are to promote kitchen gardens of vegetables and fruits, hire land from the local Ugandans, and create agreements to work together with the host community. Salesians have provided several hundred kilos of maize, beans, soya beans, sim sim, groundnuts and many assorted vegetable seeds. They have also provided tons of cassava cuttings.

Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much needed psychosocial support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents. They also operate four nursery schools that educate more than 1,000 children. In addition, there are over 700 children attending Salesian primary and secondary schools, and more than 700 families are supported by other initiatives. Salesian missionaries also launched a vocational training center to offer life skills and other training to help young refugees prepare for employment.