Fri. Sep 24th, 2021

By Annita Matsika

Annita Matsika

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in social and economic lives of families in refugee settlements.

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in social and economic lives of families in refugee settlements.  

The lockdown imposed by the Ugandan government to prevent the spread of the virus bundled families together for far too long, enabling Gender Based Violence to thrive.

In Nakivale refugee settlement in Isingiro district in South Western Uganda, women and children suffered from Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) from men, leaving the victims with both physical and psychological scars.

The settlement covers 71.3 square miles of land and hosts nationalities from

Rwanda, Burundi, DR. Congo, South Sudan, Eretria, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Mr. David Mugenyi, the Settlement commandant explains that the coronavirus lock down forced some women to stay with their husbands for an unusually long time since there was no work. Providing for the family became difficult. Men, who were mainly breadwinners, turned hostile to their wives.

The lock down restrictions on movement made it difficult for mostly men to look for extra sources of livelihood to support their families and supplement on relief aid from organizations and the Office of the Prime Minister.

Ms Sarah Mirembe, the SGBV focal person from the office of Prime Minister Nakivale refugee settlement says SBGV is a cross-cutting issue that affects both men and women.

However, women report many cases of Gender based violence compared to male survivors.

“They are also being beaten, denied resources but they fear to report to us what is happening in their homes because of cultures and norms,” says Ms Mirembe.  

 She explains that Poverty is the main contributing factor to GBV; “they don’t have enough food to eat and they find themselves in those battles.

The World Food Programme (WFP) used to give out food but now it is moving from food to cash. This has caused a lot of problems. Men want to take over the money and leave the family lacking.”

Approaches to mitigate the challenges

The Office of the Prime Minister, OPM and partners are enlightening the refugee communities on how to live peacefully with each other.

Some of the interventions include providing information on clear referral pathways to help survivors who need support to deal with the different circumstances in their lives.

Ms Mirembe says that to  mitigate the challenge of Gender Based Violence, OPM and its partners established four protection houses or safe places in Base camp in Rubondo , managed by Refugee protection partner, Alight together with  UNHCR.

Survivors stay for 10 working days in such settings as the stakeholders forge a way to find permanent solutions to the challenges.

However, in a situation where families cannot agree to reunite, they are allowed to make their decisions to live apart like Ms Faida Namuganga, a refugee from DR. Congo and a mother of four in Nakivale refugee settlement. After enduring endless assaults by her husband, she now lives with her children in a separate homestead.

This report was produced with support from WAN-IFRA Women in News under the Social Impact Reporting Initiative programme.

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