In Eastern Africa, home to large refugee populations, JRS is active in camps, cities and areas of return in four countries. In the capitals of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, JRS feels increasingly called to help urban refugees, whose predicament poses huge challenges in terms of numbers, poor living conditions and risks faced. At the same time, JRS carries on its long-standing commitments; one is to accompany the Southern Sudanese as they rebuild their country, with education projects reaching some 55,000 people. And in a region vulnerable not only to manmade but also natural disaster, JRS recently set up a project in camps in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, responding to Somali refugees who fled drought and hunger in 2011.
This new work is reminiscent of the beginnings of JRS in the region; one of our earliest commitments was in Ethiopia, assisting thousands of people displaced by war and famine. The presence of JRS quickly spread across Eastern Africa, where a JRS region was established in 1990. There was no shortage of work. In the 90s, JRS responded to the needs to refugees flowing out of Sudan and escaping genocide and wars in the neighbouring Great Lakes region, among others. The education programme in Uganda – where JRS went in 1993 – would become one of the largest ever of JRS.
As peace dawned in southern Sudan and northern Uganda, JRS adapted its projects to respond in the best possible way to the needs created by changing circumstances. When Sudanese refugees returned home, JRS expanded its work in southern Sudan to embrace returnees as well as IDPs – large education projects are under way, pastoral care and peace-building. JRS also offers adult literacy classes in Mellit, Darfur. And in northern Uganda, JRS now accompanies people returning to their villages after years of internal displacement due to the conflict between the army and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Reconciliation plays a key role in this work.
Elsewhere, in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Eritrea, chronic conflicts, persecution or drought continue to push thousands of people to flee. Many refugee camps are overcrowded, and more and more asylum seekers are heading for cities – in Nairobi alone, there are 100,000 refugees – where they constantly face protection risks and poor living conditions.
JRS has well-established projects in Nairobi, Kampala and Addis Ababa, welcoming urban refugees and offering language classes and other educational and recreational initiatives, income-generating activities, emergency aid, legal and social services.
For several years, JRS has run projects in Kakuma camp, north-western Kenya, focusing on education, counselling, and care for people with special needs and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. In 2010, Kakuma became one of the pilot sites for an exciting distance-education project launched by JRS in partnership with Jesuit universities in the US.
In 2010 and 2011, JRS started working in two other camp settings, both in Ethiopia: Mai-Aini camp for Eritrean refugees, and the camps at Dollo Ado, mentioned above.
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Eastern Africa is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organisation founded by the Society of Jesus.
In eastern Africa JRS is currently implementing 13 projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, reaching out to over 105,000 refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees. JRS Eastern Africa provides education, psychosocial support, pastoral care, peace-education, livelihoods services and emergency relief and is involved in human rights protection and advocacy activities on different levels.
Altogether, there are over eight million refugees and internally displaced persons in the whole region, including Somalia.
JRS started working in Africa in the early 1980s. One of the earliest commitments was in Ethiopia, providing food, shelter and medical aid to thousands of people displaced within their own country by war and famine.
In the early 1990s the JRS Eastern Africa region was established with the regional office based in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 1992 one of the biggest and longest serving JRS projects was set up in Adjumani, northern Uganda, assisting Sudanese refugees mainly through education and pastoral care. It was closed in 2008, after 75 schools were handed over to the government and most of the refugees were repatriated to Southern Sudan, now helping to rebuild their country, with the skills they gained during their exile in Adjumani.
Today, JRS's biggest operations in eastern Africa are in Southern Sudan, providing support in education, peace-building and pastoral accompaniment.
Kenya: civil society group urges government to end abuse of refugees
Nairobi, 24 January 2013 – A number of civil society groups, including the Jesuit Refugee Service, strongly urged the Kenyan government on Tuesday to end police harassment and abuse of refugees and protect the basic human rights of all refugees and Kenyan citizens.
Eastern Africa: In memory of Angelo Lagu, director of JRS South Sudan
Nairobi, 15 December 2012 – It is with profound sadness that Jesuit Refugee Service Eastern Africa announces the sudden and tragic demise of our colleague Angelo Lagu, JRS South Sudan Country Director.
South Sudan: spreading the message of peace on-air
Kajo Keji, 18 October 2012 – The community of Kajo Keji will bid farewell this month to the regular Jesuit Refugee Service talk shows. The radio show sought to raise awareness of conflict resolution and peace building over the course of the past four years.
South Sudan: JRS entrusts activities to the local population after 15 years
Nimule, 20 September 2012 – The curtains finally came down on the Jesuit Refugee Service involvement in the education and peace building project in the border town of Nimule when the community joined together to ensure a fitting end to the project last month. The closing ceremony marked an important milestone in the history of JRS Eastern Africa, handing over full responsibility to the South Sudanese authorities and the local community.
Ethiopia: building mental strength
Addis Ababa, 30 August 2012 – The importance of building mental strength and learning coping mechanisms during forced displacement was emphasised at a recent Jesuit Refugee Service life skills workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The ability of refugees to face adverse situations with a positive attitude links closely to general wellbeing, employability and relationship building.
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