Five years after becoming the world’s newest nation, the outbreak of civil strife in South Sudan is driving thousands and thousands out of the country. DOVE missionaries Martin and Liz Tumusiime have found themselves in the thick of a humanitarian disaster. Here we share excerpts from their blog tumusiimeupdate.blogspot.co.ke about the work they are doing in Rhino Refugee Camp.
Meet Margaret, who fled from Juba, the epicenter of the current conflict, with her five children and niece. Her husband remained in Juba, where she believes he may have joined the fighting. In the camp, Margaret was unable to cut and arrange the poles in order to put up her own tent, so she found a small tree to drape the tarp over. When we found her, she was huddled in the corner of her small shelter, holding her 10-month-old twins. But she had lost so much weight through the ordeal, medical care was not available, and even though she was trying to breastfeed as we talked, the little girls cried of hunger.
This is Agnes Apultu. She and her 10 children walked 100 kilometers from Yei until they were rescued and driven the rest of the way to Uganda. They were brought to Rhino Camp. Even after being in the camp for almost a month, she was still in need of clothes for her family (besides the ones on their backs), utensils for cooking, basins for bathing, jugs for collecting water, and supplemental milk for her babies and toddler. She also had no cash money at all and was unsure how she would earn any. One meal is provided daily by United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR.
Agnes confirmed that men were being mixed in with the women and children in the domes (large tents) where refugees sleep. Agnes and her children will have to continue sleeping like this, with unfamiliar men, until they are allotted their own place to stay.
Philemon is among the minority male population in Rhino Camp — 90% are women and children. He was living and working in Morobo, South Sudan, until he and his wife, Mary, escaped to Uganda with their eight children after rebels started killing people near their home. They were one of the more able families who could afford transportation and were, therefore, able to bring several possessions with them, such as mattresses, basins, and clothes.
Back home, Philemon worked as a teacher, and Mary worked as a cook in a school. They and their children are all educated, as evidenced by their ability to converse in English. Thankfully, since this family was able to flee together, Philemon’s daughters will have a much better chance of safety, unlike the majority of girls and women who travel without an adult male.
These are just three stories, yet it is estimated that 52,000 South Sudanese refugees have entered Uganda between July 7th and August 2nd. Violence was sparked when the soldiers of Vice-President Riek Machar and the soldiers of President Salva Kiir attacked each other at an otherwise peaceful meeting. Rumors had spread that Machar was going to be arrested; thus the reaction that has caused devastation around the country.
The sheer number and pace at which people are entering Uganda has created an almost-impossible situation. Even huge organizations are struggling to provide the basic survival needs like shelter, clean water, and food.
While most other organizations working in Rhino Camp are secular, we as “Touch Africa Now” have the unique ability to show the love of Jesus to each refugee we minister to. Though we are very small, and the only national organization working in the camp, our God is very big. We trust him to bless our limited resources.
Please pray for us, as we try to minister to this population, through providing education and basic needs for young children, who are the most vulnerable.
Martin and Liz Tumusiime
DOVE Missionaries in Africa