Salesian missionaries assist women and youth in Palabek Refugee Camp
The Catholic Missionaries, the Salesians of Don Bosco said on Saturday that they are providing five chapels and working to set up a nursery and primary school for South Sudanese refugees in the Palabek Camp in northern Uganda.
The refugee camp is currently hosting 34,000 South Sudanese refugees. The camp was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the north-western corner of Uganda. Uganda hosts close to 1.3 million refugees within its boundaries. ABC News reported that Uganda now has more refugees than Greece, Turkey or any other country in the world at the height of last year’s crisis in Europe.
The news report noted that roughly 2,000 people come across Uganda’s borders fleeing from famine, drought and violence in neighboring countries. Many refugees are from South Sudan, where famines were declared this year.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that the number of people struggling to find enough food each day has grown to 6 million, the highest level of food insecurity the country has ever seen. The United Nations said almost 276,000 people are estimated to be severely malnourished and in need of immediate life-saving aid.
Salesian missionaries working within the refugee camp have reported that 86 percent of the refugees there are women and children. The elderly comprise two percent. There are very few men but a significant number of teenage boys are among the population.
After reporting to the security, each household of five people is given a shelter and few household items. Shelters are made of tarpaulin roofs and walls are held together with sticks and nails. Each household is given 30×30 meters of land as well as 100 liters of water a day to manage all the home needs.
The Archbishop of Gulu recently appointed Salesian Father Lazar Arasu as the chaplain of the refugees in the Archdiocese. Salesian missionaries founded five chapels in the camp including St. John Bosco, Mary Help of Christians, Holy Cross, Daniel Comboni and Mother Theresa.
The chapels are used for Catholic mass as well as a meeting place for young women and their children. There are games for youth, community meetings on peace issues and agriculture activities. Salesian missionaries are in the process of setting up nursery and primary schools. The goal is additional vocational training will follow.
“Salesian missionaries provides humanitarian assistance as well as educational programs for refugee and internally displaced people around the world,” said Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “In addition to meeting basic needs, educational programs seek to address the need for systematic skills training for youth and primary wage earners responsible for the welfare of their family.”
Close to 67 percent of Ugandans are either poor or highly vulnerable to poverty, according to UNICEF. While the country has seen some economic growth as well as improvement in its Human Development Index ranking over the last 20 years, the country still ranks near the bottom at 163 out of 188 countries. After decades of war left many displaced, the people of Uganda face many significant challenges as they work to rebuild their country.
Uganda’s literacy rate has improved with 73 percent of the population literate but only 23 percent of Ugandans go on to acquire a secondary education. According to UNICEF, one of the biggest challenges in the country is combating the serious increase of HIV/AIDS that has left millions of children orphaned.