BidiBidi Refugee Camp


Bidi Bidi refugee camp harbors displaced children, men, and women during war breakouts in their nativity lands. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Uganda hosts the world’s most significant number of unaccompanied child refugees-41,200. The majority of these refugees are under the age of 15, and almost 3,000 are younger than five. Most refugees in Uganda come from Rwanda, Congo, Somalia, and South Sudan. Political and ethnic differences have engulfed South Sudan in civil wars since December 2013.

The BidiBidi Refugee settlement- sponsored by UNHCR A photo by Radio Tamajuz


According to the UNHCR, Bidi Bidi is home to over 285,000 refugees. Hundreds of unaccompanied child refugees are facing threats and obstacles.

Uganda Hosts Refugees, Risking its Economic Growth

Hundreds flock in for settlement
Uganda continues to harbor refugees despite its current economic status. Photo by World Vision International –

Uganda is the world’s third-largest host of refugees, with 1.2 million asylum-seekers. Western nations are gradually closing their doors to migrants. The UN and the humanitarian community have lauded Uganda’s unique hosting model that enables refugees to work, farm, and study. Yet hosting so many vulnerable people in the refugee settlements poses problems for the government, the UNHCR, and partner organizations.

According to World Vision International, an aid organization, unaccompanied child refugees face risks of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, and child trafficking.

In Bidi Bidi, many underage kids are traumatized. World Vision International has 70 caseworkers in Bidi Bidi who supervise about 6,000 unaccompanied children. To track signs of abuse, the WVI relies on a network of community-based child protection committees and para-social support workers. These workers are also refugees who live in the settlement. The organization also seeks to build friendships among children from various ethnic groups.

The Stories inside the Story of Refugee Life

Each morning, Rose Inya prepares breakfast for her four siblings and gets them ready for school. At dusk, she assigns housework to them and helps them with their school assignments. The 16-year-old, a student herself, cooks dinner, tends to her vegetable garden, and puts her siblings to bed.  School is also a challenge. Classrooms are overcrowded and lack materials.

School is difficult
Classes are over-crowed. A photo by Bill Wegener from Unsplash

Rose rebukes her siblings when they misbehave, and when they’re sick, she takes care of them. Iniya and her siblings live alone in the extensive Bidi Bidi refugee camp. In 2016, they fled Avumadrichi, a village in South Sudan, with their mother. Their father and elder brother stayed behind. Her mother went back six months ago to try to earn some money. Since then, they haven’t heard from her.

Nassa Yangi was 17 when she fled Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in May 2017. She joined the Rhino camp refugee settlement with her seven nieces and nephews, the youngest of whom was four. “I’ve been a mother and a father – I’ve done it all,” she said.

Later, she had the opportunity, through the Uganda Red Cross, to follow-up her mother, who was at approximately 80 kilometers in the Bidi-Bidi camp. As she heard her mother’s voice on the phone, Yangi cried. In June 2018, after a year, they were reunited in Bidi Bidi.

But some kids are never going to see their parents again. Agnes’ mother was killed three years ago by a stray bullet while fleeing Morobo city in South Sudan. The sixteen-year-old Agnes now lives with Asiki Emmanuel in Bidi Bidi refugee camp, a neighbor from her village.

Foster Families

The NGOs are searching for volunteer foster families. These families should share the same tribe and traditions of the children who arrive at the settlement alone.

Arikanjilo Lodong, 31 years of age, left South Sudan in July 2016, fleeing from violence. He took in 11 foster children alongside his six biological children. Four of the siblings he met on his way to Uganda are still staying with him today. Of the other seven children, six have since been reunited with their families since he arrived in the Bidi Bidi refugee camp.

“I miss them,” he said of those returned to their parents. “One girl said she wanted to come back [with me] when I went to visit some of them last year, but her father refused.”

But not all the kids are delighted with their foster parents. Taban Joseph, 17, from Magwi in South Sudan, said that his adoptive father does not love him. “He’s rude and doesn’t let me go with my friends,” said Joseph. He said that his caretakers purchase school supplies for their biological kids and not him or their other foster children.

Refugee women in Bidi Bidi Camp
Refugee women receive aid from UNHCR. A photo by Anes Sabitovic from Unsplash


The UNHCR and partner Organizations track prospective parents’ records. They ask community leaders to scrutinize them before legally signing children over. Families also need to attend complimentary parenting training sessions. They learn about child abuse, child rights, recognition of withdrawal, and other trauma symptoms. Many argue and criticize that the host families are inadequate.

Surviving in Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp

A group of young men designed programs like ‘I Can South Sudan‘ to improve the quality of life of children in the settlement.

Stephen Wandu is the co-founder of ‘I Can South Sudan.’ He is a well-known South Sudanese artist and songwriter under the stage name Ambassadeur Koko. He fled to Uganda in 2016 to become a refugee for the second time in his life.

During the Sudanese Civil War, he had previously been a refugee boy in the Central African Republic. His parents divorced when he was young, and his father died while he was still a teenager. Wandu knows how it feels to be alone. When he learned about the mass influx of South Sudanese children in Uganda, it compelled him to help.

Is There Hope for a Brighter Future for Children in Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp?

John Bosco- one of the refugee boys in Bidi Bidi RefugeeCamp
John is usually a serious boy. photo by Daniel Edeke from Pexels

On a recent Wednesday, a group of four dozen children met at church and rehearsed a peace song they will soon record with the Ugandan singer JM Kennedy. One of the leaders of the group was Bosco John, a 13-year-old from Yei, South Sudan. John wants to be a lawyer when he grows up.

The music sessions are an opportunity for John to forget about life as a refugee. He said his mother had mental health problems. His father remained behind to look after their land in South Sudan.

In August 2016, John moved to Uganda with a neighbor with whom he still lives, but who, he claims, gives him too much domestic work to do. 

But John, usually a serious child, completely transforms when he picks up his ukulele. He suddenly becomes all trust and flair when practicing the new song with his friends.

Refugee children need love
The children’s psychological status is alarming. They need love. A photo by Wilco Van Meppelen from Unsplash


Seme Ludanga Faustino, a South Sudanese refugee, is also a co-founder of the ‘I Can South Sudan’ organization. “I can sing out the issue that tortures me internally,” said Ludanga Faustino. This organization provides music lessons and other social activities for children in Bidi Bidi. 

He says, “What caregivers do is to give their foster children food if it is there and necessities.” “Yet, when we look at these children’s psychological status, in reality, it’s unpleasant and still wanting,” he further quotes.






Related Posts