Christmas Market brings hope to South Sudan Refugees

By John Oryang

South Sudan Refugees have created a Christmas market near their settlement in Uganda, to reach out to local residents.

Nearly 2.5million people have fled South Sudan, and will be struggling this Christmas. UNHCR organizers of a market in Kampala district, northern Uganda, hope selling hand-made crafts will help generate revenue for refugees and bridge divides with local residents.

“When the war broke out at home, my sister was killed,” said refugee Banza Biligo. “This forced me to flee with my children into Uganda. It is here that I started working with beads, I needed to support my family.”

Refugee Betty Doro said income is very hard to obtain and that she hoped the market would help.

"I'll buy some things for Christmas,” she said. “I'll be also able to buy meat, for my kids."

Ugandan shopper Rosette Komugisha said she was glad the market was established.

"Our neighbors are coming in across our borders because they find some kind of shelter and sustenance - I mean they are here to survive,” she said. “So I am glad that our policy encourages that support."

Another shopper, Pamela Abonyo, said the personal connection with the sellers helps raise awareness.

"The thing I like most is that each tent is identified by a camp,” she said. “So you can have conversations with people and actually talk to them about their experiences."

"[Becoming a refugee] can happen to anyone - I don't think anyone wants to leave their home. The best - the one thing - we can do as Ugandans is to welcome them."

“Ugandans are very welcoming,” said UNHCR Senior External Relations Officer Joyce Munyao Mbithi. “They have an open policy – they say ‘these are our brothers and sisters, they are welcome’.”