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Published: January 25th 2014
Nyumanzi Settlement Site
Murray recently got back from his 2 week Uganda Mission where he headed up the team as Emergency Coordinator for the South Sudanese refugee response. The long term coordinator is now in country, which is why we have Murray back on Kenyan soil for 1 week before his next trip.
55,000 South Sudanese have crossed the border into Northern Uganda seeking refuge from the conflict between government and opposition forces that started mid December 2013. People were flooding in at 2,000-3,000 a day and overwhelmed the humanitarian community and local population. (Refugees were also crossing the border into Ethiopia, Kenya and North Sudan). When I talked briefly to Murray on the phone in his first week he was very down, the water shortage was bad and people barely had enough water to drink, let alone cook or wash themselves. The team worked extremely hard, installing tanks personally, and trucking water in, within days they managed to provide between 7-10L of water per person per day on average, which was such a great achievement for the team from 3-5L which was what was available in the beginning. Murray talked about one refugee who ran from conflict and after 3 weeks
Dzaipi Refugee Transit Centre
finally had enough water to wash himself. Can you imagine, running in the African heat, away from people trying to kill you, literally running for your life, to cross the border into a country that is not your own, and to not enough water to wash all that sweat and dust off . . . . sometimes my life is so far removed from some peoples reality it scares me. Recently I’ve been giving the kids a daily bath instead of every second day, as they are just getting so dusty and sweaty playing outside for 1 day . . . . I can’t even imagine 3 weeks.
Murray got back to Nairobi on a high, the trip was a success and there were some touching stories. One was when Murray and his colleague helped install a water tank, 5 mins later as Murray walked around the camp he noticed people running. The water tank had arrived and people started to line up their jerry cans to get water. Murray was near an elderly lady who was struggling to run with 4 jerry cans, Murray grabbed the jerry cans and ran as fast as he could to get
her in the line. She appreciated it obviously. For me, I’m wondering what it looked like, thousands of South Sudanese, dark, tall, skinny refugees, running with their jerry cans for water, and a skinny, white boy running alongside with 4 yellow jerry cans in hand. I can’t imagine how bizarre that would have looked.
Another high point for Murray was when he managed to mobilise the team on the ground. The transit centre was hugely overcrowded and the rate that they were resettling would mean it would take 6 months to get everyone moved out. After setting some goals, mobilising the team and bringing in necessary resources, they were able to move them all in 5 days. 8,000 people in 5 days, amazing.
I’m a stats person so here are some that may help put things into perspective. The amount of refugees Murrays team was dealing with is the population of Rotorua in New Zealands North Island. 2,000-3,000 refugees crossed the border into Uganda alone, my high school had 1,600 kids, so double my high school cross the border daily. Each time you flush the toilet it takes between 4-20 litres of water depending on when
Dzaipi Transit Centre
your house was built, the survival threshold is between 3-5 litres of water a day per person. Those stats are just crazy to me.
It sounds so overwhelming. I have really struggled to write and get across how Murray has felt about his trip, I feel like I can never understand what he sees. But I have never felt so proud of him as I did on this trip. Its the simple things in life, life giving water, that Murray gets to do for his job, not sure I’m going to have much luck convincing him to head back to NZ to build roads :-/
Please continue to pray for South Sudan, its a country that has seen far too much violence in its history. We pray the ceasefire holds and for all of those refugees who will sleep tonight in a temporary shelter in a camp that will be their home for the foreseeable future.
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