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Scarce opportunities push S. Sudanese refugees to gambling, drug abuse

Author: Kafuki Jada | Published: Thursday, December 29, 2022

Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda hosting about 274,000 refugees. (Photo: Getty Images).

Some South Sudanese refugees in Uganda say the dire situation and lack of opportunities in the camps has forced them to engage in negative practices.

Ronald Milla, a resident of Adjumani camp says many refugees spend their time on gambling and drug abuse, due to boredom and limited opportunities.

“People are suffering nothing to eat at all and getting money is also a problem also the school fees and everything here things are very difficult,” Milla told Eye Radio on Tuesday.

He adds: “There is nothing to do except sleeping, playing cards and gambling because there is no work to do.”

According to the UNHCR, about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced since violence erupted in December 2013.

These include 2.26 million that have fled to neighboring countries, and 1.67 million people being internally displaced.

Uganda is the largest South Sudanese refugee hosting country in the world, followed by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

In June this year, the World Food Programme drastically reduced food rations for refugees and IDPs due to funding shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.

Betty Angelo is also a South Sudanese refugee in Biyale, Uganda.

She also says the situation in the camps is difficult for women and young people.

“Here in the camp, you find most of the youth staying at home with no job and nothing to be done,’ she told Eye Radio.

“So, this is the challenges the youth are facing. You find youth who are willing to go to school, but there are no ones to help. Some of us who are here, we have children and we have some families who are suffering and there is no any help.”

On Wednesday, a South Sudanese activist and refugee in Uganda appealed to the government to restore peace for them to return home.

Jakisana Soro who is also an artist says the return and resettlement of refugees are being discouraged by the insecurities and dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan.

“Each time there is news or rumors or whatever that comes from South Sudan about someone being killed or attacked on the road, it triggers the fear of what made refugees come to Uganda in the first place,” Soro said.

The resident of Rhino Refugee Settlement camp also owns a nonprofit organization Platform Africa – helping refugee youth from south Sudan attain vocational skills.

“Our organization is really focused on giving young people skills and become useful. This is the issue here in Uganda.”

“A lot of young people go to town squares and play cards and the whole day goes and they do the same thing tomorrow. We are trying to make sure we change this narratives the most important thing is that we want to give tools to hands of young people.”

Soro also believes that most of the refugees are still dealing with trauma and the way forward is to engage them in activities.

“There is trauma and stress, and its really difficult if you are not employed. We want to change that narratives, so in Uganda in Rhino camp settlement where I come from there is that problem.”

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