SOU TH SUDAN
The kids hang off tree branches, legs kicking and dan- g l in g, or m i l l around in clusters w a t c h i n g t h e strangers in their
midst. They erupt in peals of laughter when they see their own picture
on an iPhone screen.
The iPhone camera is the great
icebreaker here, and the pictures
also bring laughter to the women
sitting on a batik cloth, weaving
long, jet-black pieces of yarn into
the hair of one of their friends –
hair extensions in a makeshift salon
in a makeshift community.
We are all grouped around a bore
hole – a deep narrow well – at the
Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in
Northern Uganda. A line of faded
orange and yellow jerry cans stretch-es across the ground waiting to be
filled. Women take turns fetching
part of their daily allotment of clean,
This particular well was actually
the first of 15 recently drilled in the
largest refugee settlement in the
world, to help with what the United
Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
has identified as the world’s fast-
est-growing refugee crisis.
The UN estimates 4. 26 million
South Sudanese have been displaced, half internally and half
fleeing to other countries such as
Uganda (1 million), Sudan (416,000)
and Ethiopia (382,000). The 15
new wells have been drilled by the
hosts for our trip, Samaritan’s
Purse Canada, a Christian relief
organization based in Calgary and
Most of the refugees – you get
that title when you flee for your life
over an international border –
walked for well over a week with a
handful of belongings, their chil-
dren and what food they could
carry, often travelling in worn
down flip-flops, the footwear of
people with little choice.
Their former home was full of
hope after a 2011 referendum
when it separated from Sudan to
become the world’s newest country. Now a civil war with multiple
factions has dissolved their country under their feet.
So far 272,000 people have landed here in the West Nile region of
northwestern Uganda, home to
several refugee settlements where
Samaritan’s Purse is at work digging
wells and latrines, and distributing
food, seeds and tools.
On a hill that overlooks the well
stands Jane Janoba, 60. She’s a tall,
still, barefoot figure on the packed
dirt yard of her small plot of land.
She arrived here in August after
walking day and night for five days.
She has agreed to be interviewed
by the journalists visiting the
Someone asks if she likes it here.
“You can sleep at night,” she says.
That says a lot. I think of my kids’
grandmothers and what they
would need if their world was
turned upside down.
I ask her if she has friends here.
“I have friends in church,” she answers. I’m glad. We smile at each
other, just for a second. Jane has
Faith Today visited Uganda with
Samaritan’s Purse to see the world’s
worst refugee crisis – and how Uganda
and partners are responding
BY KAREN STILLER
THE BORDER ARE