Bidibidi settlement in northern Uganda was established in August 2016 and has quickly become one of the world's largest refugee settlements. By January 2017 it was housing more than 270,000 refugees from South Sudan - and had reached its full capacity. NRC is providing water and sanitation services in the settlement. 

In total, Uganda is currently home to about 600,000 refugees from South Sudan. 

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein

Welcome to Uganda

Uganda has become one of the world’s largest refugee hosting countries. How do they manage?

Last year, Uganda recieved about half a million refugees from South Sudan. Many came to Bidibidi, which quickly turned into one of the world's largest refugee settlements, housing 270,000 people.

The country is also already hosting a large number of refugees from Burundi and DR Congo, bringing the total number of refugees in the country close to one million.

Still they are keeping their doors open, in line with the refugee convention.

We have asked five Ugandans and five South Sudanese to tell us about how Uganda is welcoming the refugees:

Mary Kiden (17) fled from Yei in South Sudan last October, together with her brother and sisters. Now they are living in Bidibidi settlement in Uganda. 

"It is good to be in Uganda. They allocated us a piece of land, we have free access to medical services and we feel safe. People were killed in South Sudan. It made me afraid. Here we no longer need to listen to the sound of the guns," she says. 

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Mary Kiden. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

 

Mary Kiden

Mary Kiden,17, fled from Yei in South Sudan last October, together with her brother and sisters. Now they are living in Bidibidi settlement in Uganda.

"It is good to be in Uganda. They allocated us a piece of land, we have free access to medical services and we feel safe. People were killed in South Sudan. It made me afraid. Here we no longer need to listen to the sound of the guns," she says.

Florens Ajone is fetching water from a water point installed by NRC in Bidibidi settlement in Uganda. She fled the conflict in South Sudan in 2016. 

Quotes: "We left because of the killing. They slaughtered people. So we left yei out of fear of what could happen to us there. 
The roads were closed and it was a struggle to get here. Now we are okay. We no longer hear any gunshots and we’re safe." 

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Florens Ajone. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

 

Florens Ajone

Florens Ajone is fetching water from a water point installed by NRC in Bidibidi settlement in Uganda. She fled the conflict in South Sudan in 2016.

"We left because of the killing. They slaughtered people. So we left Yei out of fear of what could happen to us there," she says.

"The roads were closed and it was a struggle to get here. Now we are okay. We no longer hear any gunshots and we’re safe."

Never Rukia (28) from Uganda in front and Mary Kiden (17) and Christin Awate (16) from South Sudan are collecting water from the same water point in Bidibidi. NRC has constructed the water point, which is being used by both refugees and the host community. 

Bidibidi settlement in northern Uganda was established in August 2016 and has quickly become one of the world's largest refugee settlements. By January 2017 it was housing more than 270,000 refugees from South Sudan - and had reached its full capacity. NRC is providing water and sanitation services in the settlement. 

In total, Uganda is currently home to about 600,000 refugees from South Sudan. 

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein

Quotes from Mary Kiden: 
"People are being killed in South Sudan. Equatorians and Dinkas are fighting each other. 

I feel free now. Here we no longer need to listen to the sound of the guns. Some times we heard the sound of guns the whole night. People were killed. It made me afraid. 

Because of the conflict, prices also went up at the market. 

It is fine to be in Uganda. We feel very welcome here. They allocated us a piece of land, we have free access to hospitals and we feel safe. 

The Ugandans in the area benefit as well from many of the new services. I think that’s good."

Quotes Never Rukia: 
"Wars are no good for the civilians. I have understood that, when speaking with the refugees coming here. I am glad Uganda can give them land and provide security. 
It feels good to have these people in the neighbourhood. 
It has some benefits for us as well. There are for example more goods being sold at the market now. And there are clean water sources available to us, as well as the refugees. 
I think we should stay together in harmony and share the available resources."
Read caption Never Rukia. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Never Rukia 

Never Rukia, 28, from Uganda collects water together with Mary Kiden, 17, and Christin Awate, 16, from South Sudan. A new water point in Bidibidi is being used by both refugees and the host community.

"Wars are no good for the civilians. I am glad Uganda can give them land and provide security," says Never.

She welcomes the refugees to her neighbourhood.

"We benefit from it as well. There are for example more goods being sold at the market now. And there are clean water sources available to us, as well as the refugees. I think we should stay together in harmony and share the available resources," she explains.

Apai Regina (25) is washing clothes in Bidibidi settlement. Together with her family she fled Juba this autumn and arrived Uganda 10 October 2016. 

“My husband was killed when we fled towards Uganda. No I am alone here, trying my best to support my three children”, says Apai Regina. 

She wishes her children can grow up in safety.

"I do not need to fear for the safety of my children here. I feel safe. The only problem for me now, is to be able to feed my children. I do not want them to go hungry," she says. 

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Apai Regina. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/ NRC

 

Apai Regina

Apai Regina, 25, is washing clothes in Bidibidi settlement. Together with her family she fled Juba this autumn and arrived Uganda 10 October 2016.

“My husband was killed when we fled towards Uganda. Now I am alone here, trying my best to support my three children,” says Apai Regina.

She wants her children to grow up in safety.

"I do not need to fear for the safety of my children here. I feel safe. The only problem for me now, is to be able to feed them. I do not want them to go hungry," she says.

Angelina (23) had just been sitting for her last exam in South Sudan, when she quickly had to flee the country. Now she is living in Bidibidi in Uganda. 

"It is the first time I have left my own country. But it is okay to be in Uganda. We were welcomed with some basic food and a plot where we could stay," she says. 

Still she hopes to be able to return back home one day.

"Now we need to pray for peace in South Sudan." 

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Angelina. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

 

Angelina

Angelina, 23, had just been sitting for her last exam in South Sudan, when she had to flee the country in a hurry. Now she is living in Bidibidi in Uganda.

"It is the first time I have left my own country. But it is okay to be in Uganda. We were welcomed with some basic food and a piece of land where we could stay," she says.

Still she hopes to be able to return back home one day.

"Now we need to pray for peace in South Sudan."

Mafoukana Kajoube and his daughter Ajiko Zuhari (8) from Uganda are fetching water form the same borehole as the newly arrived refugees in Bidibidi. 

"It is a very good habit for Uganda to welcome refugees. It is a way to save people's lives," Mafoukana says.

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Mafoukana Kajoube and his daughter Ajiko Zuhari. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

 

Mafoukana Kajoube

Mafoukana Kajoube and his daughter Ajiko Zuhari, 8, from Uganda are fetching water form the same borehole as the newly arrived refugees in Bidibidi.

"It is a very good habit for Uganda to welcome refugees. It is a way to save people's lives," says Mafoukana.

Markom Malima from Uganda is trying to sell some clothes at a market in Bidibidi, where refugees from South Sudan and members of the host community meet to sell and buy food and other goods. 

“I’m happy the refugees have arrived here and welcome them. They have been suffering and we are able to provide them with security. Also, the business at the market is increasing. It is good to get some new costumers and some new vendors,” she explains.  

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Markom Malima. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

 

Markom Malima

Markom Malima from Uganda is trying to sell clothes at a market in Bidibidi, where refugees from South Sudan and members of the local community meet to sell and buy food and other goods.

“I’m happy the refugees have arrived here and welcome them. They have been suffering and we are able to provide them with security. Also, the business at the market is increasing. It is good to get some new costumers and some new vendors,” she says.

Ochgoro Somra and her children Farida (4) (in front), Siragi (soon 2 years), Mondoro Farida (4) and Shahid (3) were living in Bidibidi, a small place in the north of Uganda, before the refugees arrived. Now they have 270,000 new "neighbors". 

"The refugees are innocent South Sudanese civilians coming to us for protection from the insecurity in their own country. I am glad Uganda can welcome them here," Ochgoro Somra says.

"Initially we were here more or less alone. Now we have been surrounded by South Sudanese refugees. The children have made new friends. They even start picking up some words in South Sudanese languages," she laughs. 

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Ochgoro Somra and her children Farida (in front), Siragi, Mondoro Farida, and Shahid. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Ochgoro Somra

Ochgoro Somra and her children Farida, 4, Siragi, 2, Mondoro Farida, 4, and Shahid, 3, were living in Bidibidi before the refugees arrived. Now they have 270,000 new neighbours.

"The refugees are innocent South Sudanese civilians coming to us for protection from the insecurity in their own country. I am glad Uganda can welcome them here," Ochgoro Somra says.

"Initially we were here more or less alone. Now we have been surrounded by South Sudanese refugees. The children have made new friends. They even start picking up some words in South Sudanese languages," she laughs.

Mafero Lilian lost her husband in the war in South Sudan last year. Now she has been able to bring Junia Masad (2) and four other children to safety in Uganda. 

“Staying here is fine. We are safe and the Ugandans are very welcoming,” Mafero says.  

She hopes to be able to set up a small business, so that she can get some necessary household items that she would otherwise not be able to buy.   

“I hope we can get some support to be able to start making an income, so that we can depend on ourselves, and not the humanitarian assistance, in the future. That would be much better,” she explains.  

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Mafero Lilian. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

 

Mafero Lilian 

Last year, Mafero Lilian lost her husband in the South Sudanese war. Now she has been able to bring Junia Masad, 2, and her four other children to safety in Uganda.

“Staying here is fine. We are safe and the Ugandans are very welcoming,” says Mafero.

She hopes to be able to set up a small business, so that she can get some necessary household items that she would otherwise not be able to buy.

“I hope we can get some support to be able to start making an income, so that in the future we can depend on ourselves, and not on the humanitarian assistance. That would be much better,” she says.

Patrik (23) from Uganda is hired as a construction worker to help build a new motorized borehole which will provide water to South Sudanese refugees and the host community in Bidibidi. 

“Uganda also benefits from welcoming the refugees. Infrastructure is being developed and schools constructed to the benefit for everyone. The large influx of refugees also creates new employment opportunities, " he says.   
 
He also believes Uganda has a responsibility to support their neighbors.

"We welcome the refugees. They had a hard life in South Sudan and escaped to save their lives, so we need to be there for them. Uganda has a reputation for helping refugees and a long history of doing so, but we also need support from other countries," he adds.  

Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Patrik. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

 

Patrik

Construction worker Patrik, 23, from Uganda has been hired to help building a new motorized borehole which will provide water to South Sudanese refugees and their Ugandan neighbours in Bidibidi.

“Uganda also benefits from welcoming the refugees. Infrastructure is being developed and schools constructed to the benefit for everyone. The large influx of refugees also creates new employment opportunities," he says.

He believes Uganda has a responsibility to support their neighbours.

"We welcome the refugees. They had a hard life in South Sudan and escaped to save their lives, so we need to be there for them. Uganda has a reputation for helping refugees and a long history of doing so, but we also need support from other countries."

Facts
  • Uganda received 489,000 refugees from South Sudan last year, and is currently housing more than 640,000 refugees from South Sudan.
  • In comparison, 362,000 people crossed the Mediterranean into Europe last year.
  • 86 per cent of the South Sudanese refugees in Uganda are women and children.
  • The number of refugees from South Sudan in Uganda is expected increase to 925,000 by the end of 2017.
  • Uganda also hosts refugees from DR Congo, Burundi, Somalia and several other countries.
  • The country has a long history of welcoming people fleeing conflict, and housed thousands of Polish refugees during the Second World War.
UNHCR, NRC