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  • Soccer Without Borders

Uganda: Africa's Strained Safe Haven

Heritier trains with the U-10 Boys Team

International migration reached unprecedented new levels in 2016, and this year shows few signs of slowing down with 65.6 million people displaced throughout the globe. While the treacherous Mediterranean Sea crossing route, and the countless tragedies associated with it, get the majority of the headlines, there is another, lesser known border that is seeing even more activity. I am speaking of Uganda’s borders. Uganda neighbors two major refugee producing conflicts: the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the crisis in South Sudan. Throw in other regional conflicts in Burundi, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, coupled with Uganda’s extremely welcoming refugee policies, and you have a diverse and strained refugee population within Uganda as well as a strained support system. According to the latest UNHCR Uganda Fact Sheet, there are more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in Uganda as of May 2017. Of these displaced people, 74% are South Sudanese and 17% hail from the DRC. Despite the huge number of people crossing into Uganda, funding to help support the refugee settlements in Uganda has drastically dropped. As a result, many families and individuals have decided to leave the refugee settlements, foregoing the limited aid that is provided within, and try to make it on their own in Kampala.

This is where Soccer Without Borders is stepping in. There are very few organizations focusing on the growing number of urban refugees in Uganda’s largest city. Many of these families struggle to put a roof over their heads and sufficient food in their stomachs. Attending formal schools is not a viable option for most. In fact, according to a new report issued by UNHCR, refugee children are FIVE times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children. And it is even worse for girls. Take it from one of our most consistent and hardest working participants, Rita: “All of my brothers have had the chance to go to school since we moved [to Kampala]. I have not, because I have other responsibilities at home...I really want to go to school, but going to [Soccer Without Borders] is the next best thing. I can now understand English good and I get to play football with the other girls.”

As we prepare to begin our next term of English classes and football training in July, SWB is focusing on strengthening its core programming to better serve the out-of-school youth it serves. Through a combination of improved facilities, new and engaging English language-integrated football drills and an evolving English literacy classroom curriculum, we are working to prepare our youth for success after SWB, be that in a formal school, in the Ugandan community at large, in a resettlement country, or in their home country should the opportunity to safely return arise. We are excited to begin the new term and make it the best and most fun one yet!

Rita, SWB participant & Level 3 graduate

SWB's young participants celebrating in style

Imvepi Refugee Camp holds up to 110,000 people

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