Life after “Refugee”: Helping Returnees Rebuild

News arrives in the camp that the war is over and whispers of peace begin to circulate. The camps inhabitants, living in limbo since fleeing, share a long-awaited sigh of relief.  It is time to go home.

Some refugees may resettle in third countries and some may integrate into host societies, but the vast majority, when they can do so in safety and in dignity, choose to return home.  They often make this decision knowing that return holds no guarantees as some have been displaced for years, even decades.

Many persons wrongly believe that “stable” conditions and voluntary return marks the end of a refugee crisis.  But this is not the case for the millions of returnees who journey home each year to find that home is now a very different place.  Houses have been destroyed, fields decimated, livelihoods shattered, and villages devastated.  Conflicts may officially end but effects of war linger; for many returnees, the task of rebuilding can be overwhelming.

RIJ has aided the return of thousands of refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the years, helping returnees in Sierra Leone, Angola, Afghanistan and Senegal, to rebuild.  Currently, RIJ is supporting a project in Uganda that will enable 200 displaced families to safely return to their villages.

In 2006, after years of armed conflict, a cease-fire was called and the government of Uganda declared that the 1.84 million internally-displaced persons living in the country’s camps were free to return home.  Though the majority have since made their way out of the camps and have resettled in or near their homelands, many are still struggling to rebuild after years of displacement.  Through its partnership with M-Proj Uganda, RIJ is helping to ease this transition back by providing Rec seedsresettlement kits to IDPs from the Morungatuny Camp in North-Eastern Uganda.  These kits include tools to aid in the construction of new homes as well as pit latrines (for sanitary waste disposal); quick maturing seeds and farm tools, and water purification solutions.  Some beneficiaries have even set up small loan schemes that will help returnees, especially women, develop small businesses, generate incomes, achieve self-sufficiency, and build a brighter future.

Even as families continue to return and communities begin to rebuild, there are still thousands of IDPs living in the Morungatuny camps.  Some have been too sick to leave, others too old to relocate; still, there are others who, lacking any resources, cannot fathom a life beyond the camps.  RIJ will continue to work with M-Proj Uganda as it facilitates the return of these remaining IDPs, and will continue to support projects that promote the safe return of refugees and displaced persons across the globe. All persons deserve a place to call home- a place to rest a weary head, a place to raise a family and to earn a living, a place to live in peace and in dignity. A little support can go a long way towards rebuilding “home.”  To donate: http://refugeesinternationaljapan.org/form_donate

Beth Garcia

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