Video: Women Refugees from South Sudan Become Community Leaders in Uganda

World Refugee Day: Abatjouk Ajang's Story
Supported by Action Against Hunger, mothers from South Sudan who are now refugees learn to make and sell soap to generate income. Photo: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger, Uganda
Supported by Action Against Hunger, mothers from South Sudan who are now living as refugees learn to make and sell soap to generate income. Photo: Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger, Uganda

The world’s population of forcibly displaced people – mothers, fathers, and children who’ve been forced to flee their homes in the face of conflict, drought, hunger, and many other reasons – is the largest it’s ever been. The UN Refugee Agency’s 2016 data, released yesterday, shows global displacement numbers have climbed to 65.6 million, a figure that’s more than the populations of New York, California, and Virginia - combined.

These 65.6 million people all have their own unique stories: of the dangers that forced them to abandon their community, of family members they lost or left behind, of terrifying journeys to reach safety, of the struggles to find a new place to call home. Action Against Hunger is proud to work alongside displaced families as they try to get back on their feet and begin to rebuild their lives.

South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, is also the source of the globe’s fastest-growing displaced population: 2.5 million South Sudanese have fled since the civil war began in 2013, and more than 900,000 were forced to flee just in 2016. Many of them have crossed the southern border to seek refuge in Uganda, where the government’s refugee policy is quite generous.

Action Against Hunger’s approach to helping refugees in Uganda is two pronged: in places like Bidi Bidi settlement, we are helping meet urgent, immediate needs for the newly displaced. Sadly, with no end in sight to the violence in South Sudan, refugees’ needs are not limited to a short-term, emergency response – that’s why we’re also partnering with South Sudanese refugees who fled months or even years ago. These populations tend to be more settled and stable, and in need of a different, longer term approach to help them build sustainable livelihoods in their new communities and keep their families healthy for the long haul. 

More than 86 percent of the refugees living in Uganda are women and children, according to the United Nations. In Uganda’s Adjumani settlement, Action Against Hunger is helping women refugees rebuild their lives and protect the health of their children through mother-to-mother support groups. In these groups, our teams educate mothers about healthy care and feeding practices to prevent severe malnutrition. The group appoints a "mother leader," who helps the Action Against Hunger facilitator convene the group,  offer cooking demonstrations,  and helps teach mothers about nutrition, infant feeding, hygiene and staying healthy. Many groups also take on income-generating projects like making soap, keeping poultry or growing extra vegetables, which gives them cash and a communal savings pot from which they can borrow at low interest.

These groups also provide women with a safe space to share their experiences and provide each other with emotional support to cope with the trauma they have undergone. In Adjumani, Action Against Hunger has organized 120 mother-to-mother support groups.

VIDEO: Meet Abatjouk Aguerr Ajang. She is responsible for the care and well-being of 21 children. Abatjouk is a refugee. But she is also a mother, a leader, and a humanitarian. This is her story. 

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Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger. We save the lives of malnourished children. We ensure families can access clean water, food, training, and health care. We enable entire communities to be free from hunger.