UGANDA: Salesians at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp focus on prevention efforts and food support
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries at the Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda are working to provide prevention information and food support in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been no coronavirus deaths in Uganda to date, but there are 696 confirmed cases of infection.
It’s difficult to raise awareness among a population that has not yet personally witnessed the impact of a pandemic of this type, according to the Salesians active in the refugee camp. The camp currently houses 56,000 people who remain at great risk.
Father Jeffrey Albert, one of the Salesian missionaries living and working at Palabek, said, “Movements are found among refugees from South Sudan sneaking through the unofficial borders and from other refugee camps. About 50 of the transiting truck drivers who went to South Sudan have tested positive for coronavirus. We are concerned because refugees at the Palabek Refugee Settlement Camp are not following rules and regulations that could control the spread.”
Medical services provided to refugees have always been poor. There are only three health units, with minimal facilities. The facilities are used by those in the refugee camp and by the several thousand Ugandans who live in the surrounding areas. Now, due to the lockdown, providing medical services is even more difficult, and there is an increase in diseases such as stomach ulcers and other problems related to poor nutrition.
The closure of schools at the national level also affected the 11 primary schools and the secondary and technical schools, which serve more than 25,000 school-age refugee children and older youth. Because they are staying at home with less food than before and without lessons or any kind of distraction, children and youth are nervous and at times unruly.
The lockdown has also impacted food rations, decreasing them by 30 percent. It’s nearly impossible for families to have enough food to maintain themselves for the month. Father Lazar Arasu, head of the Salesian mission at Palabek, said, “This can also generate frustration, anger and other social unrest.”
Salesians are working to provide food to hungry people asking for food support. They are also handing out prevention materials inside the camp, in the surrounding community and across the border.
Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much-needed psycho-social support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents. They also operate four nursery schools that educate more than 1,000 children. In addition, more than 700 children are attending Salesian primary and secondary schools and more than 700 families are supported by other initiatives.
Salesian missionaries also launched a vocational training center to offer life skills and other training to help young refugees prepare for employment. Young refugees can attend vocational training courses for free. Depending on the discipline, some courses run for 3-6 months while others run as long as a year. Salesian missionaries have also set up a job placement office that helps students make contact with companies that are hiring, prepare resumes and prep for interviews, and find internships and on-site training opportunities
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Salesian Missions – Uganda