The conflict that spread into South Sudan on the borders of northern Uganda left hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese to seek refuge in Uganda.In December 2016, the Ugandan government created Bidibidi refugee settlement in northwestern Uganda to house the growing numbers of people fleeing into the country.
According to Mr Thomas Faustii, the head of the United National High Commissioner for Refugees,Yumbe office, disclosed that Bidibidi is currently hosting an approximate population of 227,000 refugees , making it the largest refugee settlement in the world.
However much government, UNHCR and other support partners have tremendously supported these refugees, many of the asylum seekers struggle with mental health issues due to traumatic memories of wartime experiences that can not leave their minds.
A refugee child, 14-year-old Mary, recalled horrific experiences she witnessed during her journey to Uganda.
“On our way to Uganda- I saw dead bodies along different paths that we took., I was not in contact with any of my family members;, I was moving with strangers,” she narrated.
Mary is just one of hundreds of hidden voices who
are suffering from similar incidents of trauma, depression, and mental disorders.
According to a World Health Organization report from , mental illness in categories of
individuals such as refugees can be developed before migration, during migration and after migration and other circumstances such as lack of education and inadequate resources like food.
In a move to create piece of mind amongst the affected refugees, Finn Church Aid Uganda, UNHCR, and other partner organizations have made a concerted effort to strengthening the education sector at Bidibidi settlement so that traumatized children can gain relief from the burden of irresistible memories of horror, and thoughts of lost hope.
In Alaba Pprimary Sschool located in village 2, Zone 2 of Bidibidi, a music, dance and drama (MDD) group where learners engages learners in activities that distract their
thoughts from the past events.
In Bidibidi, art has also helped some these refugees to gain mental sanity. Through drawing what is on their minds, the refugees are able to wash away their trauma and bad feelings, helping them to build self-confidence , love and trust with fellow refugees and the local people.
In early 2019, Artolutions art making initiative provided more than 11000 youths in the refugee settlements with an out let for trauma and instilled hope for the future of their communities.
According to a YEAR report from UNHCR, village health teams were established in refugee settlements in line with the Ministry of Health strategy. These teams help to identify patients, connect them with qualified therapists, make referrals and do follow-ups with the patients including fellow refugees who have been able to heal. This strategy helps to improve the relationship between refugees and host communities, hence creating harmony due to providing a sense of being loved
According to a 2018 report from the Ministry of Health, the government’s vision is to have a healthy and productive refugee community and population that contributes to economic growth, national development and a harmonious co existence amongst the host communities and refugees. According to Ronald Lubega, International Rescue Committee Health Manager, this can only be achieved when the refugees are mentally stable, because it is the mind that leads to positivity or negativity. Once people
gain mental stability, they are better able to work toward a developing and united society