The Bidi Bidi refugee settlement is one of several located in Northern Uganda and covers an area mass of 250 square kilometers. It is the biggest refugee camp in the world and houses over 270,000 refugees. Most of the refugees come from South Sudan, a country that gained independence in 2013 but witnessed a new wave of instability and famine in 2016, forcing over 1.6 million South Sudanese to flee their homes. Out of the 1.6 million, 800,000 fled to Uganda. Uganda has one of the most compassionate refugee policies, allowing people to set up their own homes, and refugees are given the right to work and travel, which is uncommon. Uganda has, therefore, become a hot spot for refugees, which has brought an economic strain on the nation, forcing it to rely on humanitarian assistance to sustain millions of refugees.
Who Are the Bidi Bidi
The Bidi Bidi refugee settlement is home to a mostly South Sudanese population. Many of the inhabitants of Bidi Bidi fled because of the threat of murder or imprisonment from rebels or government soldiers. Having left their homes, often walking for days at a time, they arrive at the settlement center with nothing more than the clothes on their back. The process of becoming a refugee is often slow and hectic, but basic needs are met in a timely manner thanks to the NGOs and volunteers’ tremendous effort and funds that have been dedicated to making this refugee camp more livable.
Many of the inhabitants are affected by disease, predominantly malaria and HIV/AIDS. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes breed in wet environments, and due to the rains in Uganda, no one is safe from malaria. Therefore, it is imperative that these settlements have proper access to medical aid and resources to ensure the well-being of refugees. In addition to a lack of medical resources, malnutrition affects most of the population of Bidi Bidi and the rest of Uganda. The Ugandan government has been under pressure to provide food for those malnourished, but it is almost impossible without humanitarian aid and support.
Opportunities in Bidi Bidi
Each organization working within the Ugandan settlement camps and Bidi Bidi offers different and varied opportunities for refugees to support themselves and regain a sense of normalcy. Caritas is an organization aimed at promoting justice and helping the poor, and they have mobilized efforts to give aid to the people of Bidi Bidi. Depending on which zone of the camp refugees live in, some receive a plot of land, agricultural tools and seeds to begin to sustain themselves and create opportunities for businesses.
Many women in Bidi Bidi have access to psycho-social support and empowerment resources that have been set up within the camp. The U.N. has created a system of revolving funds, meaning that funds are replenished when used, which allows women to learn vocational skills such as hairdressing and helping women build their own businesses. This leads to empowerment and creates a sense of stability in an unstable world.
The Future of the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement
The Bidi Bidi refugee settlement is the largest of its kind in the world, it uses what it can to create and offer opportunities and resources to refugees, so they may live more independently. It focuses on rehabilitation and independence and creates a sense of hope for the future of the inhabitants of Bidi Bidi. The unrest and violence in South Sudan still create thousands of refugees on a daily basis. The long-term solution is to achieve peace in South Sudan, so people can return home. However, in the short-term, it is imperative that Uganda receives humanitarian aid to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its inhabitants.
– Trelawny Robinson