Less than a year ago, there wasn’t much to see on the sparsely populated land surrounding the town of Yumbe, Uganda—today, it’s the world’s largest refugee camp. Bidi Bidi settlement, located about 30 miles south of the border between South Sudan and Uganda, is now home to more than 270,000 people who’ve fled conflict and famine in South Sudan.
Last July, a new wave of violence broke out around South Sudan’s capital, Juba, forcing more than 800,000 refugees to seek safety across the border to Uganda—with more coming each day. Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February 2017, causing more people to flee their homes in search of refuge. When these families arrive in Uganda, often on foot, traumatized, and in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, the government of Uganda has extended them the benefit of one of the most open and generous refugee policies in the world: they receive a small plot of land, food rations, health care, education and, once they have documentation, they will be able to get a job or start a business.
The World Bank has called it one of the “most progressive” refugee policies in the world, but right now, that generous system is being strained beyond its capacity. Uganda’s infrastructure and local resources are overwhelmed by the massive influx of refugees and the needs of local host communities. In June, Uganda is hosting a global summit to urge the world to help it rise to the challenge of caring for the needs of South Sudanese refugees.
In Bidi Bidi settlement camp, where more than 80 percent of the refugees are women and children, Action Against Hunger is working to meet the urgent survival needs of new arrivals. Our top priorities are saving the lives of severely malnourished children, providing emergency health services for pregnant women and new mothers to improve nutrition, and delivering safe, clean water to prevent disease. Across Uganda, we are providing humanitarian assistance to more than 100,000 refugees, and we aim to try to do more.
We are there for mothers like Florence Awate, who witnessed horrific violence, and travelled on foot for days through war zones in South Sudan to seek safety in Uganda with her young son, Innocent. Innocent became severely malnourished along the journey, and Florence brought him to the Action Against Hunger health clinic in Bidi Bidi to receive lifesaving treatment.