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Volunteers on the front lines in Uganda refugee camps

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Susan Onyango, IFRC

Freda Kajoki Igga, 28, is a volunteer at the Adjumani branch of the Uganda Red Cross Society. Since January 2014, she has been registering refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan. She has also been issuing ration cards and non-food relief items to the refugees.

As she had been trained in registering refugees, Freda was called upon to assist at the Dzaipi transit centre. After a day’s orientation, she was ready to start her duties. Initially, as many as 3,000 refugees were registered daily. After moving to the present registration site at Nyumanzi, the numbers dropped to between 1,000 and 1,500 a day. The situation has since stabilized with roughly 200 registrations daily.

“Refugees arrive here very exhausted and in need of a place to rest. The transit centre is crowded and the few tents we have are occupied, forcing them to take a break under the shade of the trees,” says Freda. There are 70 volunteers with the Uganda Red Cross involved in supporting the refugees. Those working in the transit camp face difficulties.

“The language barrier is often a challenge for us. To overcome that, we have identified translators from within the refugees to assist us,” adds Freda. “We also have to cope with the demands of impatient people without getting emotional. On busy days, we hardly get a chance to take a break. But that does not make us despair as our concern is to ensure that people are properly settled.”

Freda was born and raised in Adjumani. She started off as a member of a Red Cross club while in primary school and later became a volunteer. She graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in human resources from the Kampala International University. Given her background with the Red Cross, she would like to work in the humanitarian sector.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is supporting the Uganda Red Cross in delivering humanitarian assistance to the South Sudanese refugees, mainly around water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, shelter, health, and disaster preparedness and risk reduction.