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UGANDA: Salesians provide education and support for young refugees

Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp home to nearly 72,000 refugees and asylum seekers


(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries live and work among the refugees at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in the border town of Palabek, Uganda. They have been supporting refugees since the opening of the camp in 2016.

Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp is currently home to nearly 72,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from South Sudan, and 60% are under age 13. It was officially set up to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. The country has 28 refugee camps for people from Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and South Sudan. Nearly 1.5 million refugees reside in Uganda, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Palabek is not the typical African refugee camp but rather a settlement where local Ugandans from the north of the country and newcomers live together. The site provides a safe haven for many people who have lost their homes and loved ones to conflict, violence and persecution.

Salesians have established schools including a vocational training center and a parish, built a church and 17 chapels in nearby villages, and helped with education, food distribution and pastoral work. They organize youth sports and music. Education is a primary focus and one of the most effective tools young refugees can use to build their future.

Father Ubaldino Andrade, rector of the Salesian community in Palabek, said, “We need more Salesians to work in Palabek. Many young people are growing up without the care of parents who have returned to South Sudan.”

The Salesians in Palabek explained that refugees live in extreme poverty, working hard every day to survive and eating very little, sometimes only once a day. Many youth are forced to leave school to work breaking stones, making coal or collecting firewood. Others work in agriculture, planting maize or looking after animals. The few who manage to go to school have to walk long distances and lack educational materials and sufficient food. Many become mothers and fathers at a very young age, with no livelihood, experience or job.

Uganda is known for its unique and humanitarian refugee policy. The country welcomes refugees and grants them the right to work and freedom of movement. Despite the difficult living conditions and the trauma, refugees in the Palabek settlement form a community based on mutual support and solidarity. Local authorities and organizations are working to ensure security and maintain peace in the settlement. Residents of the surrounding villages and towns often share their resources with the refugees and help them integrate.

Salesian missionaries also operate in communities outside of Palabek including a refugee settlement in Kyaka. Their goal is to provide more locations for educational and pastoral work as more resources become available.



ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Uganda – Palabek: this is not a refugee camp

Salesian Missions – Uganda

UNHCR – Uganda Refugees

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