The “green belt” around Yei, in the South of the country, was spared of the violence which characterizes the short history of South-Sudan. Until July 2016, when the fighting spread further south. The region around Yei, once the country’s bread basket, empties out. Those who can, flee to Uganda, where Bidi Bidi, one of the world’s biggest refugee camps, emerges.
Caritas has been active for years in the region around Yei and remains alongside the inhabitants, wherever they are. With the support of the Swiss Embassy in South Sudan, Caritas distributed 8 tons of seeds and 12,000 agricultural implements in October 2016, enabling 3,600 refugee families to create a small irrigated vegetable garden.
Growing food in refugee camps
“Donors saw that the Caritas support was effective and started giving more funds,” explains Ward Tanghe, Caritas International’s representative to South Sudan and Uganda. “By March Caritas had reached 5,500 families; by May this number had raised to 12,000 and during the main agricultural season of July, 33,000 refugee families each received 7 kgs of seeds – enough to ensure them of a diversified diet throughout the entire dry season.”
Not only has the Caritas program in Bidi Bidi and Imvepi continued to grow in terms of number of beneficiaries, it also diversified its support to tree planting, specialised agricultural training, a lot of vocational training and scholarships for formal education (focussing mostly on secondary and higher education). “With the support of the Swiss Government, the Belgian Government, 1212 and individual contributions, Caritas has given 33,000 refugee families food security, livelihoods and – most of all – hope for the future,” Ward Tanghe adds. “As the emergency phase ends, the next challenge will be to continue to provide a minimum of support for as long as the refugees are in exile.”
Food distributions in South-Sudan
Many of the children and elderly were unable to flee to Uganda and stayed behind as the city of Yei got closed off from the rest of the world. With the support of 1212, the Swiss and the Belgian Government, Caritas makes sure that 12,000 vulnerable people who are trapped in Yei town get monthly food rations while they wait for the war to subside.