16 year old Onen Isaac a south sudanese refugee fled alone into Uganda. Photo credit: Julius Kasujja

Hope In The Midst of Distress

Growing up, I dreamt of becoming a doctor. Now all I dream about is the safety of my parents and brothers. Sometimes I dream that they are around but when I wake up, the grim reality of being alone sometimes paralyses me and I want to stop these dreams. I wish I had a switch I could just flip and they stop recurring. As I walk around the camp/settlements, I carry the expectation that perhaps I will see a familiar face and we would be reunited once again.

My name is Onen Isaac Luke. I am a few months shy of my 17th birthday and I come from Eastern Equatorial in South Sudan where I used to attend school even though my home is in Juba. The recent fighting that started in mid July broke out when I was still in school. On that fateful day I was just going to see my friends, I saw people running and I just had to flee following the direction they were taking. I had no time to run back to where I was staying. Along the way, we were stopped by gun men asking where we are from and where we were going, A woman gave me a container and whispered to me that I should say I am from the side of Uganda but had come to deliver lunch for my parents who were in the farms that brief encounter seemed like an eternity. They then told me to go. I am not sure what happened to the other people fleeing. I am now alone; I tried looking for that woman but in vain. I am just thinking of how to survive. My plan is to grow some food around the plot I was allocated to keep me busy and hopefully after harvest, I can sell some so I can get money to continue with school. I don’t have the tools and seeds yet. My neighbor Mathew is my guardian and always encourages me to be strong disciplined. He sounds like my father, every time he was returning to Juba for work after dropping me off at school, he would leave me with some warning and encouragement to study hard, stay in school and avoid getting in trouble! i hope to see them soon!”

My family was in Juba. I always stayed with my parent’s family friends until the holidays when my father would pick me up.

Oxfam in partnership with CEFORD currently provides water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Bidibidi settlement and at the reception centre in Yumbe district where more than 128,888 South Sudanese have been received since July 1st2016.[1] This brings the total number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda to over 358,064. Oxfam is striving to meet the emergency needs of the new arrivals on top of the 85,475 refugees and host community it supports in Adjumani and Arua districts. With more funding, Oxfam will be able to roll out its gender and protection program that caters for the protection needs of the vulnerable groups including people like Isaac. Ideally Isaac and other children his age would be supported in recreational activities like football games which brings them together, keeps them productively engaged and helps to lower vulnerabilities that past experiences with armed conflicts bring specially vices such as drug abuse and alcoholism among young people.