By Joseph Elunya
Efforts are being undertaken to transform refugees living in Uganda, from being dependent to self reliant.
In northern Uganda, which experienced a dramatic increase in the refugee population following the 2016 conflict in South Sudan, the NGO Enabel has embarked on equipping, the refugees with the skills and tools that can enable them reintegrate.
The efforts being carried out by Enabel is part of a project, being undertaken by a consortium of three humanitarian agencies using funding from the European union. The consortium carries out programs that are aimed, at skills development, job creation and access to services such as education and water. It also includes provision of parallel support to their host communities.
Ibrahim Ogaram the Communication Specialist for the consortium says that the refugees and members of the host communities are offered technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills then given startup kits like sewing machines, salon, baking, welding and fabrication equipment. He explains that the trainees, are also supported with funds to pay rent for their business premises.
He says that the program aims at providing economic opportunities to both refugees and host communities in Kiryandongo, Adjumani, Moyo and Arua.
Charles Okoth the Program Coordinator Enabel says more than 5000 refugees and members of the host communities have been trained in life skills and offered startup kits.
Samira Abdu a single mother of two who was forced by the war from her home in Nimule South Sudan, is now able to fend for her family and to pay fees, for her children following the training and the support that was offered to her by the consortium of EU humanitarian agencies.
“I have been suffering a lot, as a single mother but now with the support I got, we set up a bakery together with five other people and at least now, I can afford to pay fees for my child who is in senior one in Luwero as well as meet my basic needs without waiting for relief from UNHCR” said Samira Abdu, a resident of Kiryandongo refugee settlement.
Grace Akillo, a mother of five children and formerly of Gingabor village, Jonglei State, South Sudan but now lives in a refugee camp in Adjumani in northern Uganda earns her living from hairdressing business
“I’ am very happy because if God allows me to go back to South Sudan I will utilise the knowledge and skills that I have acquired to raise money to support myself and family”.
Akillo says on a good day she’s able to make 20, 000 shillings as profit from the saloon business which she jointly runs with five other refugees who under went a skilling program from Enabel.
21-year-old Angeth Makol spent days in the bush as she ran for her dear life following 2013 deadly clashes in Bor, South Sudan and took refuge at Ayilo 1 refugee camp in Adjumani district. At the time she was forced out of South Sudan she was in her senior four.
Today, Angeth earns a living from baking “following the training I acquired from Windle International I started a bakery business together with five other refugees and we are currently supplying cookies to shops and also selling them from our outlet here in the camp” remarked Angeth.
“I hope to raise enough money from this business that will enable me go back to school and study journalism” Said Angeth. She has a dream of studying journalism in order to be able to highlight the plight faced by refugees in the camps.
At Panyadoli resettlement camp 26-year-old Nancy Ageno acquired skills in careering, today she and her five fellow trainees have managed to setup a restaurant in Bweyale town. To Ageno the training and skills she acquired enabled her to transform from living on handouts to becoming self reliant.
Ageno hopes to raise funds from the restaurant business that will enable her to upgrade and become a professional chef.
For 30-year-old Rebecca Lalam formerly of Pajok in South Sudan, the skills she acquired in tailoring and the startup kit she was given has enabled her to set up a tailoring business in Panyadoli trading center.
She makes clothes and sales them to sustain her family a shift from when she used to rely solely on humanitarian agencies for assistance.
Her story is not different from that of Onesta Stima a 23-year-old who as a child was separated from her parents when war broke out in Yei, South Sudan.
Before Enabel introduced the skills program, Onesta had no source of income to sustain herself but today she earns a living from hairdressing. She is a leader of a group of six women who run a salon business in Panyadoli refugee resettlement camp.
Uganda is currently home to the largest number of refugees in Africa, a majority who are from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
More of this story is in voices a podcast run by the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Uganda. Listen to it by clicking here https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1329573.rss