By Absolom Ochieng
A vocational School in Bidi Bidi is training refugees and giving them skills that can enable them become self sustaining, instead of perpetually waiting for external help within the Refugee Settlement.
With more than 227,600 refugees from South Sudan, Bidi Bidi is the largest refugee settlement in the world. Situated in Yumbe District northwest of Uganda bordering South Sudan, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the refugees coexist with a Ugandan host population of approximately 584,221 people. The settlement is about 250 square kilometers with five zones that are broken down into villages. Refugees who fled their homes due to the ongoing insecurity in South Sudan have moved into Uganda to save their lives and those of their family members.
The UNHCR head for Yumbe Sub-Office Thomas Faustini said refugees have suffered in one way or another and as humanitarian agencies they are there to help.
Many refugees in Bidi Bidi were forced to leave school early due to the unstable situation in their home country. Others arrive in the settlement with no means to sustain their livelihoods other than depending on handouts from the humanitarian agencies. To help such refugees obtain additional education and gain skills that can help them sustain themselves, UNHCR together with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) in partnership with the Ugandan government opened the YOYO Youth Vocational Training and Recreational Center in Bidi Bidi Zone 3 as a solution to skilling the refugees.
Fred Achidria, the lead instructor at YOYO Vocational Institute, said, not only have the refugees lives been changed, but the nationals as well.
In the areas near refugee settlements, host communities sometimes feel left out, viewing that all the resources are given to the refugees while leaving the native Ugandans neglected. To solve this problem, a so-called ’70-30′ policy was introduced in all refugee settlements in Uganda. Within this system, refugees receive 70% of the resources and 30% of the resources are given to the host community, including education. Grazia Paoleri, West Nile Area Manager of the Norwegian Refugee Council, explains more.
Isaac Bakata came to the Bidi Bidi settlement from South Sudan with his wife and four children about 3 years ago and is now studying motorcycle mechanics at Yoyo Youth Vocational and Recreational Institute. He explained how his life has been transformed at the institute
To some of the Ugandans who may feel like refugees are a burden and should not be here, Bakata said we’re all related and pray to the same God and that tables could turn and the same Ugandans might need the help of South Sudanese
Bakata also had a final message to pass on to the perpetrators of the war in South Sudan
With more than 47 partners and working alongside the government of Uganda through the Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR in projects such as the Yoyo Vocational Recreational Center is striving to improve the lives of not only refugees, but the host community as well in Bidi Bidi Settlement, giving hope to those who had lost all hope.