Location and general information
The current conflict in South Sudan has led to the arrival of nearly 800,000 refugees in Uganda, the largest group of refugees in the country. Uprooted from their homes as a result of the war, many refugees suffer from severe mental illness. Unfortunately, trauma victims are rarely treated on account of the focus on meeting immediate basic needs. In addition to mental illnesses, UNICEF recently reported that over 4,400 children and 2,706 pregnant women in Ugandan refugee camps were living with HIV. These figures do not include undeclared cases, which could be much more numerous. It is therefore vital that refugees are given accurate information.
In addition to health issues, tensions and conflicts between the refugees and their host communities serve to amplify the difficulties faced by the refugees.
 UNICEF Uganda CO Humanitarian Annual Situation Report 2018 https://www.unicef.org/appeals/files/UNICEF_UGANDA_CO_Humanitarian_Annual_Situation_Report___January_to_December_2018.pdf
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 65% of South Sudanese refugees are under the age of 18. In this context, the Swiss Academy for Development (SAD), in collaboration with the Community Psychosocial Support Organisation (CPSO), wants to enable young refugees in the Moyo district to better cope with trauma and stress by increasing their resilience and self-belief and by encouraging peer support through sport and play-based psychosocial activities. A 24-month programme of supervised group sport and play activities, including non-competitive team sport, will be implemented to help them overcome feelings of stress and anxiety and develop social cohesion, trust and critical life skills. Life skills training will be expanded to include HIV/AIDS awareness, while a new environmental focus will highlight the need to maintain a clean space within the camps.
- To support the most vulnerable young South Sudanese refugees living in camps in the Moyo district.
- To offer regular sport and play-based programmes designed to help children and young people to build essential life skills, strengthen resilience and foster social cohesion between refugees and local populations.
- To improve young refugees’ resilience and offer them sustainable livelihoods.
- To reduce the negative psychosocial effects of war-related trauma on displaced children and young people from South Sudan.
The sport and play sessions will be based on the ’Life Skills for Overcoming Trauma and Coping with Stress Curriculum’, which the SAD and the CPSO developed together and is being continuously adapted. In an easy-to-read format with clear objectives for each session, the curriculum document contains precise instructions for every activity, while teaching aids are adapted to refugee camp settings. Each session will be followed by an educational activity on topics relevant to the participants’ age group, such as alcohol and drug abuse, child marriage and early pregnancy, HIV/AIDS prevention, psychosocial awareness, hygiene and healthy relationships.
Similarly, the ‘Children on the Move Uganda’ project will provide a theoretical basis for the organisation of sports programmes specifically designed for victims of trauma.
Supervised team sports (particularly football) and life skills games will continue to be used as a powerful vehicle for bringing children and young people from different social backgrounds together in a relaxed and enjoyable setting, where they can share their emotions – both verbally and non-verbally – and be distracted from their immediate sorrows and suffering. At the same time, sport and play activities will strengthen social bonds among refugees and members of the host community, and provide a positive, safe space to deal with difficult emotions such as fear and frustration.
The project will include group discussions and workshops designed to raise refugees’ awareness and understanding of the mental health problems that could result from their exposure to traumatic events before, during and after their displacement. Participants will be taught a variety of response and coping strategies.
Discussion sessions will also help CPSO psychosocial counsellors to identify more serious psychological problems, as well as problems with family dynamics that require individual, family or group counselling or referral to more specialised mental health care services.
- During phase I, the CPSO has been working in eight of the 15 camps established for refugees from South Sudan in the Moyo district. In phase II, it plans to extend its activities to two more camps and open two new safe spaces as well as five satellite playgrounds. In total, ten safe spaces and ten satellite playgrounds will be established within the ten camps. Weekly sport and play sessions for children and young people will be planned and run by a total of 20 coaches. Five additional coaches will be recruited. Sessions will be held at a convenient time for all (late afternoon) and last two hours.
- The provision of sport and play activities in a psychosocial context requires an effective team of facilitators. To this end, the SAD and the CPSO will train existing and newly recruited coaches to run trauma-informed sport and play activities and use sport, games, drama, singing and storytelling to lead discussions on coping with trauma and daily stress.
- Weekly sport and play sessions will be followed by educational activities aimed at children, young people and women, covering topics associated with trauma, PTSD and coping strategies. Participants will learn how to recognise the signs of trauma and PTSD, and will develop their personal understanding of coping strategies.
- Thematic sessions will be run for children, young people, women and men on health (HIV/AIDS), peace-building and conflict resolution. This will support their general well-being, and their resilience and ability to cope in particular.
- Individual, family and group counselling sessions will be held to provide children, young people, men and women with support and a safe place to talk about psychosocial issues and concerns. Through these sessions, participants will strengthen their support networks, improve their communication skills and find a safe place to discuss challenging issues.
- Ten mobile clinics (one for each camp) will be equipped and ready to provide medical support for camp residents with severe mental health disorders. Patients who exhibit signs of need during sport and play or counselling sessions will be referred to these clinics.
- Ten additional saving and loan groups will be established to give young people and men an opportunity to develop an income-generating activity.
- Technical training (i.e. entrepreneurship and agriculture) will be provided to at least ten groups of young people, women and men in each camp to help them establish their income-generating activities.
- Seed capital will be provided to help young people, women and men start their income-generating activities based on the training they receive.