Since April 2006, more than 2,000 South Sudanese refugees have flooded across the northern Ugandan border into the Palabek Refugee Camp -- where they have joined more than 32,000 others seeking relief from violence, drought and famine. Salesian missionaries have been working within the camp to provide physical and spiritual support for these refugees -- the vast majority of whom are women, children and the elderly.
According to official estimates, South Sudan is struggling with the highest rates of food insecurity the country has ever seen: as many as 6 million people do not have enough to eat each day. Almost 300,000 are so severely malnourished that, without immediate humanitarian assistance, they will not survive.
“It’s a challenging situation, both for the refugees, and for their host country,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “With more than 1.3 million people living in various camps around the country, Uganda currently hosts more displaced people than Greece, Turkey or any other country during the European refugee crisis.”
At Palabek, families receive simple shelter, some food and clean water each day. Salesian missionaries working at the camp help to ensure dignity, resourcefulness and brighter futures for these refugees.
At five Salesian-run chapels -- St. John Bosco, Mary Help of Christians, Holy Cross, Daniel Comboni and Mother Theresa -- camp residents can attend Mass, as well as gather for community meetings, participate in mother-child support initiatives and just offer each other emotional and spiritual comfort. Most recently, Salesian missionaries began constructing three kindergartens. Ultimately, they plan to build primary, secondary and vocational training schools in order to prepare refugees for their next phase in life.
Pauline Aluel arrived at the camp in April with her three children after her husband was brutally murdered. "We had lost hope as people of South Sudan, but the church is restoring it. I have been having bad dreams about the people I saw being murdered. But the Salesians are helping me to overcome it. I can now recite a rosary and find renewed hope."
“Salesian missionaries provide humanitarian assistance as well as educational programs for refugees and internally displaced people around the world,” adds Fr. Mark. “In addition to meeting basic needs, educational programs provide the skills training that youth and primary wage earners need to build more stable futures.”
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