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Northern Uganda staff trained in psychosocial support with Icelandic Red Cross support

Tuesday, 08 August 2017 08:32 Written by

 Participants attending the pyscosocial support training in Arua – Northern Uganda

Uganda Red Cross Society recently held a four days Psychosocial Support Training session for its staff and volunteers to empower them with skills on how to deal with psycho-social issues. The training was conducted from May 8 to May 12, 2017 in Arua, West Nile. The training was conducted by experts (psychologists) from the Icelandic Red cross. 

One of the psychologists, Elin Jonasdottir, the Psychosocial Support Training (PST) is intended to prepare staff in handling victims with numerous psychological disorders like trauma, shock, stress, mental illness among others.This comes at a time when Uganda Red Cross staff and volunteers are receiving a number of refugees from South Sudan. As staff and volunteers handle these refugees, there are chances that they get burnouts due to a lot of work.

photo:Participants attending the pyscosocial support training in Arua – Northern Uganda

The Refugees too come with a number of challenges which are likely to cause them a lot of psycho-social disorders. The training was as such tailored to equip the staff and volunteers who on a daily basis meet refugees and need their support."As humanitarian agencies go about supporting these people, they need psychosocial support skills to help them respond to psychosocial needs of the refugees," Mr. Jonasdottir – physiologist – Icelandic red cross.

Mandu Sadam, a URCS Staff and beneficiary of the training, noted that the exercise has come in handy because the Uganda Red Cross is at the forefront of the South Sudan refugee response in Northern Uganda. Mandu is among the trained groups of "Trainers of trainees” and now a member of the Emergency Response Team. “This training is good for us as staff and very important for Red Cross. The staff and volunteers can be able to detect symptoms of trauma, post-trauma, stress and mental illness quickly and figure out the best and most effective remedies for the refugees. We needed it and we will ably use the skills got to support ourselves as well as our direct clients, the refugees."

Icelandic Red Cross psychologist - Elin Jonasdottir, conducting the training in Arua

Ms Orwin Tumuhirwe, the Coordinator Human Resources and Administration noted that the training benefited the staff who may not necessarily be part of the refugee operation but who through their work support people in one way or the other. “The Uganda Red Cross Red Society staff and volunteers often come across people faced with crisis events like deaths, accidents, disasters, chronic illnesses, Sexual-Gender Based Violence, rape, suicide, as well as stress and burnout from humanitarian responders themselves as they do their daily work. If staff and volunteers are trained, they can easily support through early detection and referral interventions before the situation goes out of hand. 

This justifies the need for capacity building of URCS staff and volunteers to be able to effectively provide holistic emergency response programing that can save the lives of the victims,” Ms Tumuhirwe added. The training benefited 30 staff from Uganda Red Cross, UNHCR, Office of the Prime Minister (Settlement commandants), Peter C. Aldeman’s (PCA) Foundation, Transcultural Psychosocial Oraganization (TPO) and Red Cross volunteers. The trained staff works directly with refugees.


Photo:Icelandic Red Cross psychologist - Elin Jonasdottir, conducting the training in Arua

Tears As Refugee Children Reunite With Their Families

Tuesday, 08 August 2017 08:10 Written by

Have you been away from your close family for a day, a week, a month or even a year? How did it feel?

Atto running to hug her sister upon arrival

If well planned, it could be non-eventful. On the other hand, it can be one of the most disheartening situations one can ever go through. Imagine thousands of people fleeing insecurity, disasters, wars, famine, injustices, and other atrocities against humanity!

Many lose touch and contact with their families because they may not get a chance to escape together. 

The conflict in Southern Sudan has caused thousands of people to flee to neighboring countries like Uganda for refuge. Among the refugees are children who cross borders unaccompanied but find their way with help of fellow children, neighbors or a Good Samaritan.

Uganda Red Cross in partnership with ICRC, OPM and UNHCR supports the protection of separated and unaccompanied children to ensure their safety and dignity. 

Photo: Atto running to hug her sister upon arrival

Thirteen-year-old Miriam Atto was at school when the war in South Sudan forced her out of class together with other children. They rambled with no sense of direction until they joined a group people who were moving to a direction she didn’t know. At the boarder point in Lamwo, they learnt that they were in Uganda. Since then, they have camped at a Good Samaritan’s home. This kind stranger has been their foster mother until Red Cross met them.

Atto is one of the 10 children that Uganda Red Cross restoration of family links program has supported to trace their close relatives and reunited them. 

At the end of June 2017, 10 children in Lamwo camp had been successfully traced, close families identified and ready for unification. Mariam anxiously packed her bag a day before her scheduled journey to reunite with her family. She just could not wait to meet her mother.

Atto (R) with her mother Pitta (L) at their home in Pagirinya refugee settlement in Adjumani, Northern Uganda.

With support from UNHCR Child protection office, Office of the Prime Minister Camp Commander in Uganda, Uganda Red Cross visited the foster home in Agojo to pick the 10 children and take each one to their close relative in the different camps in Northern Uganda. Atto joined the other nine children and was taken to meet her mother. It was quite an emotional moment as parents and children excitedly met after a long period of separation.

"I thank God; I give Him the glory. I did not sleep the whole night because I was praying. The joy I got when I was told my daughter was coming couldn’t allow me to sleep. I wish I could slaughter a goat, chicken or rabbit for you but they all died in Sudan. I would have done so as my token of appreciation. Red cross has resurrected my child. I thought she had died and had given up on her. Ooooooh, God is worthy of my praise. To Him be the glory!” said Atto’s mother, 51-year-old Rebecca Pita, while raising her hands and weeping in joy. Pita thought death had robbed her of her daughter in the South Sudan war. Atto too could not control her tears. 


Photo:Atto (R) with her mother Pitta (L) at their home in Pagirinya refugee settlement in Adjumani, Northern Uganda.

Sharing her life aspirations, Atto said she wants to become the Minister for Education. She starts school next term and looks forward to living a better life with her mother. “I am so happy to meet my mother. My father died before the war and I thought my mother too had died. But now I am happy to see her. I will help her with housework and also help out with other home chores. I also can’t wait to start school because I want to make my mom happy someday,” Atto adds.

 Red Cross RFL staff give counsel to the family after the unification.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) supports Uganda Red Cross to implement the restoration of family links program (RFL) in refugee settlement camps. The families exchange messages, make phone calls and clarify the fate of missing persons. Children without biological parents are given a chance to live with close relatives if identified. 

Photo: Red Cross RFL staff give counsel to the family after the unification.

Youth celebrate Red Cross day in Eastern Uganda

Tuesday, 08 August 2017 06:06 Written by

  Youths painting a Zebra Crossing in Eastern Uganda

Young people in Eastern Uganda organised a youth camp to commemorate the Red Cross day.The event was hosted at Light Secondary School Busia from May, 5 - 9. The camp whose theme was: Environmental management, our role as young people, attracted over 100 youths. The young people purposed to revamp the degrading environment through tree planting. This they believe will save the community and protect lives.

With support from the Integrated Climate Change Adaptation project, funded by the German federal government through the German Red Cross, the youth were able to plant over 1500 trees as a move to strengthen and build resilient communities that can withstand the effects of climate change. "Environmental change is a global issue today which affects many communities and even claims lives. In Mbale for example (part of Eastern Uganda) landslides and mudslides happen all the time it rains. These claim many lives. If we plant enough trees, we will have contributed to environmental protection," said Joseph Omilmot, the chairman CGB.

Photo: Youths painting a Zebra Crossing in Eastern Uganda

The youth make up about 60% of the Uganda Red Cross membership and they also form the biggest part of the Uganda Red Cross Volunteer body that makes service to the vulnerable possible. Every year, Uganda Red Cross joins the rest of the world to celebrate the International Red cross and Red Crescent day on the 8th of May. This year’s theme was "Everywhere for Everyone."This implies that the Red Cross is everywhere to serve everybody who needs our services.

 Tree planting at one of the schools in Jinja

At the end of the camp, the youth appreciated the Red Cross efforts in bringing them together to acquaint themselves with core activities of the National Society where building the capacity of branches and all youth groups is paramount.The youths among other activities learnt about First Aid, simulations and sexual reproductive health. “The learnt skills will help us as we grow into this profession,” Jonah Wesonge, participant.Among other activities the Red Cross week included a blood donation drive, painting of Zebra crossings, doing community cleaning, visiting needy orphans and the elderly and washing clothes for the disabled.  Among other advantages, these activities created a bond among the youths of the National Society and they pledged to continue working together. “This year the camp was in Eastern [Uganda]. Next year, we will take it to another region and all the youths in the country must benefit through the youth initiatives,” said John Atugonza, the URCS National Youth chairman.

Photos: Tree Planting in Jinja


Uganda Red Cross donates scholastic boards to children in Northern Uganda

Monday, 07 August 2017 08:11 Written by

Uganda Red Cross donates scholastic boards to children in Northern Uganda

Uganda Red Cross in partnership with the German Red Cross recently donated boards and other scholastic materials to children between the ages of 3 and 12 in the resettling communities of Karamoja. This was under the project ‘Support of disadvantaged communities in Karamoja in Northern Uganda in respect of access to basic education and preventive healthcare.’

The project is a move to see education and health services boosted in these communities. Six study centres were opened in Kaabong and four in Abim, to support education for children in the local communities. "This is a remarkable initiative towards improving access to basic and formal education for the vulnerable children in the resettling communities. The initiative has been highly appreciated by the communities and the local government together with other partners. We will keep encouraging more children to join school as part of the Red Cross contribution to development in the rural areas in Uganda,"said Simon Eyoku, URCS Project officer

Uganda Red Cross has been implementing the project for over five years and has supported many children in Karamoja. The boards help children to quickly learn how to write, they are durable. "The boards are durable compared to exercise books and are more suitable for the Karamoja region because of the set up of the settlement. Boards unlike exercise books don’t soak with water, are easy to manage and store. The boards last two years before we replace, yet exercise books get torn and are used up very fast,” noted Moses Akol, a member of the community and implementation partner.

Karamoja is one of the areas of North and North Eastern Uganda that suffered political instability in the 1980s. Health facilities, roads and Schools were destroyed leading to children struggling to access social services like education. In some areas, children study under trees, dilapidated buildings, while some miss many school days due to unfavorable study environments. The Uganda Red Cross therefore gives such boards to keep the children interested in school. The children always look forward to a board to write on, a meal at school, among other incentives.

"I love the board and I will keep in school. I want to become a doctor and treat my mother when she is sick. I will also train children in school to look up to me,” says Otuboi Otukol, 8, with a smile. While Otuboi and some few other children attend one primary school, there is need for establishment of other schools to enable children in the rural Karamoja area to access education.


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URCS Contacts

Plot 551/555 Rubaga Road.
P.O. Box 494, Kampala Uganda.
Tel:     (256) 414 258701
Tel:     (256) 414 258702


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