Renowned photographer Giles Duley visited a refugee camp in Omugo, Uganda, where he met refugees with disabilities fleeing violence in South Sudan. Many of these individuals who were affected by the conflict, shared their personal stories and the significant challenges they face in the refugee camp.
Beatrice, who sits next to her mom, Reida, are a part of the 1 million South Sudanese who have taken refuge in Uganda.
Beatrice, who became paralyzed at age six due to the polio virus, wishes she could play with the other kids in the camp. Soon after this photo was taken, Beatrice received a wheelchair from HI’s team. As a result, she will be able to attend school and play with others.
Reida, Beatrice’s mother, sorts through beans that she will soon cook over wood for her three children. Beatrice likes to cook the sauce for the beans and often helps her mother.
John had his leg amputated in 2012 as a result of cancer. When shootings started during the night in his village in South Sudan, he had to leave in a hurry with his wife. John took his crutches but had to leave his prosthesis behind.
In the camp, John became a community volunteer with Humanity & Inclusion. He travels around the refugee camp to identify vulnerable people and people with disabilities, so that our teams can ensure they receive the support they need.
Catarina fled violence in South Sudan with her family. She feels very lonely in the refugee camp. It is very rocky which makes it difficult for Catarina to get around. She wishes she could go and have a chat with her neighbors and visit others in the camp.
Mary fled the violence in South Sudan and took refuge with her family in Omugo refugee camp.
“I wonder if I will see my friends again?” she said. She cannot reach her friends that she used to visit in South Sudan. They are all separated in other camps. It makes her feel stressed.
Mary has a disability due to the polio virus and also has scoliosis. She had to leave her wheelchair behind when she fled and now struggles to move throughout the camp.
Since the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan in 2013, Uganda has offered a place of safety to more than 1 million people fleeing the conflict since July 2017. More than 85% of the refugees are women and children. Meryll Patois, HI’s rehabilitation technical advisor in Uganda outlines the needs of South Sudanese refugees and the services that our teams are providing.
Caring for the most vulnerable
The needs are acute among South Sudanese refugees due to the type of conflict they're fleeing. HI is the first organization to provide this type of service—there are no other rehabilitation services in the camp. We can see the violence of the conflict on the bodies of our beneficiaries. Some people have suffered extreme violence and did not have access to any healthcare for a long time. They had to flee with their injuries, worsening the damage to their bodies.
Many of the people our teams are helping have fractures and injuries caused from shotguns. Many were attacked during the night and had to run away. Most of them have walked in very difficult conditions for days, without having access to any health services. We see a lot of beneficiaries who have unnecessary complications from simple injuries—these could have healed better if they were dealt with at an early stage. If a fracture is not treated right away, for example, it can lead to complications and long-term impairment.
HI has an integrated approach, which sets our services apart. We take a holistic view of every beneficiary we meet. For example, a mother with a broken leg cannot walk. So she cannot go and buy food in the market, work, or take care of her children. She may also have psychological trauma. In this case, our team would provide her with rehabilitation support but also psychological and protection support, and refer her to other organizations so that she can have access to all of the services she needs.
Our team would also try to find out if there is a caretaker who could help a person with an injury or disability. If so, we would train each caretaker, so they know what to do to support their friend, neighbor, family member, etc. We find a lot of solidarity in the camps. Neighbors are supporting each other even if they only just met. We rely on these human links to make sure beneficiaries can get all the care they need.
For example, one of our beneficiaries, Beatrice, is a 10-year-old, little girl whose legs are paralyzed due to complications from the Polio virus. She cannot walk. We will provide her with a wheelchair to go to school and we will also teach her mother how to support her daughter with physical therapy exercises.
Reaching and empowering the invisible
There is a huge injustice for people who cannot move around and don’t have access to the services they need because they cannot leave their shelter. HI is reaching these people who are often unintentionally excluded from humanitarian aid. Our role is to make sure that they receive the support they need. Sadly, there are still many in need of that support today.
HI has a fixed point in the camp for rehabilitation services, it's here that people can find us. We also have mobile teams of physical therapists, who reach individuals who are unable to leave their shelters. During a rehabilitation session, HI’s physical therapists work on movements to help the beneficiaries recover. If movement is not possible, HI’s team provides the beneficiaries with assistive devices such as crutches or wheelchairs to help improve their daily life.
We have a protection team that travels around the camp and identifies the most vulnerable people and their needs. We also rely on HI's community based volunteers, who are also refugees and know the community very well. Similarly, some beneficiaries are referred to us by other NGO partners such as Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee.
More about our work in Uganda
Present in the country since 2009, our teams helps victims of landmines and other explosive remnants of war to recover through physical rehabilitation, psychological support, and job training. Staff members also educate other Ugandans about the risks posed by these weapons. We are also conducting a census of people with disabilities, referring them to relevant services. Learn more about our work in Uganda.
Photo: Tabitha, 8, is from South Sudan and now lives in Omugo refugee camp in Uganda with her family. Tabitha has difficulty walking due to Polio. HI provided her with new crutches, adjusted to her height, so she can go to school with ease.
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Humanity & Inclusion helps victims of landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) to recover through physical rehabilitation, psychological support, and job training. Staff members also educate other Ugandans about the risks posed by these weapons. The organization is also conducting a census of people with disabilities, referring them to relevant services. The organization has worked in Uganda since 2009, and employs 20 national staff members and eight expatriates.
Uganda hosts the largest amount of refugees of all African countries, with a total of 1.3 million refugees. Humanity & Inclusion began working in Uganda in 2009 and after suspending its operations in 2013, has relaunched programs in 2017. After enjoying relative political stability over the past decade, Uganda has now been directly affected by the conflict in South Sudan, with more than 1 million refugees fleeing the violence and seeking shelter in Uganda, together with 300,000 nationals from neighboring countries. Uganda has adopted a generous asylum policy, with refugees offered freedom of movement, along with the right to work, own assets and access education and health services.
Assistance to Refugees
Humanity & Inclusion supports the large number of refugees entering Uganda, most of whom have fled the conflict in South Sudan. The organization works to identify vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities and children to facilitate their access to humanitarian services and other other aid.
Humanity & Inclusion offers refugees psychosocial support and mental health services while also providing rehabilitation care and distributing mobility aids. In order to improve the refugees' resilience and food security, Humanity & Inclusion provides financial assistance to refugee families.