The Nakivale Refugee CampAfter the scheduled trainings of the Mukono and Kisoro Trainees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) invited PAAP to provide acupuncture at the Nakivale Refugee Camp. To accommodate refugees and asylum seekers, the Ugandan Government and UNHCR had collaborated on the creation of the camp in 1994. The Nakivale camp, situated about 310 km west of the capital city of Kampala, has approximately 15,000 refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Somalia. Many of them have lived in exile for decades, waiting for peace to return to their homelands. Situated between six mountains, it is extremely hot during the day and cold during the night.
The physical appearance of the refugees made it clear that they are suffering from a variety of complex diseases. The camp has a hospital, where people can go and get basic emergency medicine, but people say they have no confidence in the hospital staff or the medication they dispense.
Four PAAP Trainers and three experienced Trainees traveled to the camp to provide acupuncture treatments. We had no preconceived notion that our brief presence at the camp would radically alter life for the refugees. Our hope was that the treatments would provide at least temporary relief from stress and illness common in refugee camps—a small taste of hope.
After her work at the Nakivale camp, one of the PAAP Trainees from Uganda, Patience Kinahirwe, captured her experience in the following email:
I first of all thank you and all who enabled us to attend to the refugees because for me that was my first experience. I had never been to a camp of refugees to see how their life is over there and how they live their day to day life there.
It was a great experience. What made me more interested was that they were all very much eager to receive treatment, though at first they all expected to be getting western treatment like giving them tabs, injections, and ointments. Later they realized that it was not like that, and at the end of the day they said that it was a type of treatment which they had never seen.
Things got more interesting the second day when those refugees who were treated came up with change of life "improvement." That’s when things got tough, and they started struggling to all get treated at the same time. This was impossible because they were very many. Even if we were to stay for 3 weeks we would not have finished them because they were thousands and we were few. We also had a problem of language barrier, which made the work very slow. So we had to hire some interpreters. There are very many tribes in the camp, and they don’t speak the same language since they are from Zaire, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, and Burundi.
So we worked three days in one part of the camp, as they have two clinics in the camp, and we made other two days from the second clinic. But still people were very many, and we couldn’t finish them since man power was not enough. But the many that we did were reporting improvement and that’s why all others would pour at the same time and start struggling to be treated. That brought confusion to us, but later we were assured that that was their behavior. So we had to persist and continue with our mission.
To me, I say that we really achieved a lot, both treating and experiencing how refugee life is very difficult and hard. For sure, those people need more support as far as their health is concerned because they really deserve it.
Great thanks to the Acupuncture Project, the funders, and the States at large for extending such beautiful great service to our dear suffering people and the oppressed ones who cannot afford themselves.
PAAP has now trained 160 Ugandan and 22 Kenyan healthcare workers and hopes to continue to expand within those countries. And the experience of working at the refugee camp makes it clear that, to guarantee the refugees’ ongoing access to acupuncture, we must pursue the goal of training healthcare workers there. And other African countries, such as Malawi and Nigeria, have expressed a strong interest in having PAAP come to conduct acupuncture trainings. Acupuncture, as provided by The PanAfrican Acupuncture Project Trainees, is certainly proving to be an invaluable addition to the healthcare services in Uganda and Kenya.
PAAP continues to be a volunteer-run organization. If you are interested in making a donation, becoming a Trainer, donating supplies, and/or participating in some other way, please visit our website (www.panafricanacupuncture.org) or email PAAP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read about our work in Mukono and Kisoro.