The “green belt” around Yei, located in the southern region 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 will remain alongside 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 which enabled 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, specialized agricultural training, many vocational training programs, and scholarships for formal education (focusing mostly on secondary and higher education). “With the support of the Swiss Government, the Belgian Government, and the individual contributions of 1212, 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 receive monthly food rations while they wait for the war to subside.