Natalina Mandulu, 64, is a South Sudanese refugee from Yei county in the Central Equatorial state of South Sudan.
She fled from her country due to conflict to seek refuge in Uganda. Before the conflict, life was great. She owned a hotel and was able to sufficiently provide for her family's basic needs. All this was lost to the insurgency in South Sudan.
“Losing my partner and parents to gunshots in the armed conflict in 2017 made it clear that nothing was left for me at home,” said Mandulu.
In June 2017, together with her 17-year-old daughter and 3 grandchildren aged 1, 2, and 5 years, she joined thousands that fled from Yei to Meri refugee settlement in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After staying in the settlement for 11 months, the situation worsened as more internally displaced persons sought refuge in the same settlement, creating pressure on the available resources.
In May 2018, Mandulu decided to seek refuge in Uganda due to the uncertainties in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On arrival, she was allocated a piece of land, core relief items, and settled in Omugo 5 by the Office of the Prime Minister. Due to the size of her family, she decided to build two temporary tarpaulin shelters to accommodate their growing needs.
“Conditions in tarpaulin-built shelters can be tough to adapt. My children and grandchildren became prone to diseases like malaria,” narrated Mandulu.
Natalina Mandulu, 64, South Sudanese refugee
After months of living in the shelters, they finally moved to Rhino Camp where they received monthly relief food - consisting of 60 kgs of maize, 11 kgs of beans, and 5 liters of cooking oil to cater for her family of 5.
“This food was never sufficient and sometimes we would be forced to eat one meal a day. My children became malnourished, and unfortunately, in 2020, I was diagnosed with ulcers due to poor eating habits. I was restricted from foods like beans and posho, which are the major components of the food basket,” said Mandulu.
Her children were enrolled in school with minimal necessities until 2020 when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Mandulu’s daughter conceived and delivered. This meant that she now had to provide for a bigger family size.
Due to her increasing vulnerabilities, In July 2021, Mandulu was chosen as a beneficiary of the cash assistance project funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). In August 2021, she received her first cash support which she used to supplement her family’s diet as advised by the doctor. She also spent part of the money to buy clothes for her children and finally repaired their dilapidated shelters. She went further to start the construction of two new shelters to provide enough space for her growing family.
For Mandulu, her children's education was always paramount and in January 2022, through the cash assistance, she was able to enroll her daughters and three grandchildren in school.
With the surplus, Mandulu bought two goats from Kubala market and plans to buy seedlings to ensure she is financially stable even after the project closes.
Through the support, Mandulu has regained her psychological well-being. She can now afford to take her children to school, buy them decent clothing and supplement her family’s diet.
Juan Mary, 42, is a South Sudanese refugee, born with a disability. The single mother of 6 has 3 nephews in her custody after losing her sister-in-law in 2003 during the war in South Sudan.
In 2021, upon arrival at Imvepi refugee settlement in Uganda, she was received by DRC at the reception centre and later relocated by the Office of the Prime Minister to zone 1 village 4.
The trauma from the war is still fresh in her mind. In 2020, she was attacked by rebels on her way to rescue her mother in South Sudan. She sustained bullet wounds in her thigh which later led to the amputation of her right leg. Her son also sustained injuries from the attack.
Juan together with her 9 children were solely dependent on relief food from World Food Program and thus needed further support to sustain their growing family needs.
“Some days we would miss some meals at home because we would run out of the food received from World Food Program. Due to my condition, I could not do much to cater to my family’s basic needs,” narrated Juan.
Juan Mary, 42, South Sudanese refugee, born with a disability
Life in the settlement became very hard with no support from relatives besides the monthly dry food she received.
For a long time, Juan lived a hopeless life, until the DRC protection team conducted a general assessment of Persons with Specific Needs in June 2021. She was identified, assessed, and later selected to benefit from Danida’s one-off cash assistance fund, supporting the most vulnerable persons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to their increased vulnerabilities, Juan’s household was further supported to benefit from monthly cash assistance from the DRC-led Uganda Cash Consortium project, funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).
She was supported with 300,000 UGX (about $83) which she will continue to receive for 8 months to meet her family’s basic needs.
“Thanks to ECHO’s support, I was able to repair my leaking shelter, pay school fees for all my children when schools were reopened, buy shoes, clothing, and most importantly afford a variety of foods for my family,” said Juan.
She is now able to put aside some money for medical care should need arise. She also bought 4 goats that she is also rearing as a means of generating income to support her family’s needs. She is confident that she can comfortably live beyond the 8 months of support.
Shantal, a widow, reflects on how her life changed suddenly leaving her traumatized and in desperate need of support.
In February 2020, the 28-year-old mother of three children aged 2, 3, and 8 years joined thousands fleeing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in search of refuge.
She recalls the good old days when her family lived happily in Congo. Before the war, she would stay at home taking care of the children while her husband, who worked as a teacher, went on with his day-to-day work at school.
As fate would have it, the civil war started at the school where her husband taught. When the rebels burnt the school, her husband was among those who were killed in the skirmishes.
When the rebels started firing bullets and burning houses near their home, Shantal made a quick decision to look for a safe place to start a new life with her children.
After days of trekking, they were received at the reception centre in Ntoroko in Uganda and were provided with core relief items (mat, bucket, kitenge, food, pads, soap). They were later resettled in Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda, allocated a piece of land by the Office of the Prime Minister, and settled as refugees.
Without a reliable breadwinner and an income-generating activity, Shantal was thrust into a new reality where she had to fend for her family’s growing needs.
“With decreased food rations that we received from the World Food Programme, I had to beg for food from our neighbors as it would finish before the next distribution,” says Shantal.
Additionally, the house she managed to set up was leaking from all corners when it rained and was nearly collapsing. Despite the challenges, she was still happy they had a roof over their head, and never once did she regret leaving her native home.
Shantal, a widow and mother of three fleeing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo
After months of struggling to receive support from different organisations, Shantal was selected to receive cash assistance through the Uganda Cash Consortium project. The project, funded by the EU humanitarian aid (ECHO), provides 8 months of cash assistance to the most vulnerable households.
“Her household was female-headed with children below the age of 12 and living in a rundown shelter,” said Faith Atim, the DRC Cash Officer in Nakivale Refugee Settlement.
Through the project, she has been able to meet her family’s basic needs, build a decent house for her family and take her children to school. She also bought a variety of foods to feed her family, a mattress and chairs for their house, and stationery for her school-going children.
Shantal has used her surplus to invest in rearing hens for egg production and goats for meat and milk hence supplementing her household food needs. She is confident that life will never be as it was when they arrived, and even after eight months of support, she will be able to sustain her family.
“I am very happy with this cash from DRC, it is not limited to one use, and it has helped me to rebuild my family. I urge the DRC to help more people who have a similar start as refugees, to improve their lives too,” concluded Shantal.
Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in consortium with The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) implements the Uganda Cash Consortium- Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance to the Most Vulnerable Refugee Households in the Southwest and West Nile Regions of Uganda. In Rhino Camp, Imvepi and Nakivale refugee settlements, about 31,000 refugees have been supported with cash for meeting basic non-food needs.