Rising Above the Pain To Serve Others

By Emilly Niringiye

Vasta is a 33-year-old refugee from Goma, North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She and her family fled to Uganda because of the intertribal conflicts that have continued to disturb the residents of North Kivu.

“My husband and I fled with our 7 children after our village was attacked in the night, but our eldest son who is 17 years old was left behind. In the chaos, he run in a different direction from all of us,” she says. “Later on, though, we received news that he was safe at our neighbour’s home. I am glad he is safe and that my family is well and unharmed. But we lost everything, save for the clothes on our backs.”

Back home in Goma, Vasta owned a clothes boutique from which she earned money to supplement the family income. Her husband who is a pastor, also worked in the boutique sometimes when she had other errands to run.

Upon arrival at the Sweswe reception center, Vasta and her family were given basins, a tent, and family utensils, jerrycans and food to have a start at a new and more peaceful life. They were resettled in Mukondo C zone, one of the areas where Oxfam is implementing an integrated humanitarian response.

“I got to know about Oxfam from a community meeting I attended. We were told that Oxfam was looking for volunteers to support in its implementation of proper sanitation and hygiene practices. In that very meeting, the community members were asked to elect people they would trust to represent them, and I was among those that were elected.”

“As a member and leader of the Village Health Team, my role entails sensitization of the community on pit excavation - measuring the ideal dimensions of pit latrines, reporting community members who have finished excavation to receive materials and also general hygiene promotion.”

Vasta hopes to set up a business whose income will be put towards educating her children and providing a better life for her family.

Since late December 2017, the situation in Kyaka II has dramatically changed, with increasing numbers of new arrivals from DR Congo arriving via border crossings in South Western Uganda and transferring to Kyaka II through Nyakabande transit center. Total refugees in Uganda including DRC refugees and asylum seekers as of 30th June 2018 are at 1,470,981. Of these, 288,766 are DRC refugees and asylum seekers as per the UNHCR updates. Information from the new refugees and aid agencies suggests more may be expected.

The overall response according to the UNHCR July reginal update remains 89% under funded.