Missing World Refugee Day commemorations over Covid-19

Refugee acrobats entertaining people at the World Refugee Day in Kyangwali Settlement settlement in 2017 (File photo)

As the world moves to commemorate the World Refugee Day on June 20, 2020, refugees at Kyangwali Settlement in Kikuube District say they have missed pre-event activities that make the biggest part of their joy annually.

This is due to the measures the government of Uganda imposed to curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

Ms Doreen Paskaline Neeza, a refugee from Rwanda, says she could now be rehearsing for her day’s drama presentation.

Download audio: Neeza on rehearsals (Kiswahili)

Traditional dance, drama and poems make the biggest part of entertainment in the settlement at such an event.

Mr Charles Atek, a refugee from South Sudan, reminisces the football practices in preparation for competitions that end with awards and the Acholi traditional dance called Rakaraka performed to entertain the community.

Download audio: Atek on preparations (Kiswahili)

Mr Bahati Ondoga, a refugee hailing from Mara-tatu regrets the outbreak of COVID-19 saying that he will miss the entertainment that soothes the refugees every year through interaction with others.

However, he says he has to bear with the situation since the COVID-19 pandemic-curbing restrictions are aimed at ensuring good public health.

Meanwhile, refugee-serving organisations have made interventions to create a sense of World Refugee Day commemoration despite the restrictions related to controlling the spread of the disease.

Ms Leila Bbale, the team leader for Internews Uganda – an organisation dealing with communications in Kyangwali Settlement says efforts have been made to ensure that the day does not pass in silence due to the pandemic.

In partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Alight Uganda and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), messages have been designed, translated and produced to promote awareness about COVID-19 and disseminate the guidelines to commemorate the day. These have been running for a week.

Download audio: Bbale on refugees (English)

At National level, Ms Alsam Khan Duniya, the Communications Officer at UNHCR Uganda, says commemoration activities will entirely be online via the UNHCR Uganda Facebook page and Twitter handle.

According to her, acknowledging refugees and Ugandans who have played a heroic role in the fight against COVID-19 is also crucial.

Commemorations will be live between 10-11am East African Standard Time (EAST) on Saturday, June 20 June.

Download audio: Duniya on online activities (English)

Ms Duniya encourages both refugees and Ugandan nationals to remain strong and in solidarity as they fight against the pandemic and forge a way forward in harmony.

Download audio: Duniya on solidarity (English)

Uganda is home to more than 1.4 million refugees with South Sudan, DR Congo and Rwanda having the majority of those that fled civil unrest in their home countries.


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