Kyangwali Refugee Settlement And Reception Centre in Uganda Sees Huge Rise In Refugees Entering From The Democratic Republic Of Congo

Life Inside a Crowded Refugee Camp

A photographer talks about what he saw in Uganda.

Since the beginning of 2018 more than 65,000 people have arrived in Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape a surge in ethnic violence. The fighting in Congo between the Hema and Lendu communities has seen villages being burnt and dozens killed. The majority of refugees fleeing the country’s Ituri province are arriving in Uganda by boat by crossing Lake Albert, which lies between the two countries. The perilous journey can take up to two days, and a number of Congolese have died during the crossing.

The influx of refugees has left settlements in Uganda at almost maximum capacity, placing severe strain on facilities. A cholera outbreak in the settlements last month left dozens dead and more than 1,000 people infected. Photographer Jack Taylor traveled to the Kyangwali refugee settlement and the Nsonga landing site in Uganda in April to document the crisis. Here, FOTO talks to him about what he witnessed. (All photos by Jack Taylor)

Refugees Gather by a Market at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement Jack Taylor/Getty Images Refugees Gather by a Market at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement

Taylor arrived at Entebbe airport in Uganda on April 3, 2018 and immediately made his way to the settlements. "The dirt roads were often tricky to drive on, particularly as it was rainy season,” Taylor said. “Getting from one seemingly nearby area to another sometimes took hours as we drove on waterlogged roads through patches of thick forest."

Refugees Arrive by Boat from Tchomia, DRC Jack Taylor/Getty Images Refugees Arrive by Boat from Tchomia, DRC

"On the days when conditions were best for crossings and there was little wind, the heat was generally at its most stifling,” Taylor said. "People were arriving with as much as they could bring and I heard one story of a group who attempted to cross with over 20 cows in their boat. The animals apparently became distressed during the journey, kicking a big hole into the boat and causing it to sink. Fortunately, all the people on the boat were rescued, however, all but 3 of cows drowned in the lake. The ones that survived miraculously managed to swim the rest of the journey to Uganda."

Coming Ashore at Nsonga Landing Site Jack Taylor/Getty Images Coming Ashore at Nsonga Landing Site

According to the International Federation of Red Cross, more than 80 percent of the arrivals in Uganda are women and children. "With the adults carrying heavy luggage, it was often up to the older (but still very young) children to take care of their younger relatives,” Taylor said.

Heading to the Recreation Center Jack Taylor/Getty Images Heading to the Recreation Center

After arriving at the landing site, refugees board a bus from the Nsonga landing site to a reception center, where they are processed and given a medical exam. At the center, “hot meals are provided and there are various hangers and tents where people can sleep," Taylor said.

Waiting to Register in Nsonga Jack Taylor/Getty Images Waiting to Register in Nsonga

"The figure on this woman’s clothes is of Patrice Lumumba, the first leader of an independent Democratic Republic of Congo - a source of inspiration to many Congolese and a symbol of defiance,” Taylor said.

The refugees generally stay at these sites anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.

Shelters at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement Jack Taylor/Getty Images Shelters at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement

"After a week or so they are given a plot of land and the means to make a shelter and grow crops,” Taylor said. “The idea is to have a settlement where the Congolese can be self-sustainable rather than a refugee camp."

The Rwenyawawa Health Center Jack Taylor/Getty Images The Rwenyawawa Health Center

In addition to cholera outbreak which killed dozens, there have been many cases of malnutrition with people arriving at the landing site complaining of hunger. In this photo, the father of a one-year-old refugee with severe malnutrition feeds her ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) at the health center.

Getting Treatment Jack Taylor/Getty Images Getting Treatment

A young refugee with suspected anemia lies on a bed in a ward at the Rwenyawawa Health Centre. The World Food Program anticipates providing food and nutrition for up to 1.6 million refugees this year.

A Young Refugee Waiting for Food Jack Taylor/Getty Images A Young Refugee Waiting for Food

"People would queue for food for ages before it was ready so they could be one of the first in line,” Taylor said. “I heard many people complaining of hunger and new arrivals would often go a day with little more than a few biscuits."

Standing Next to Shelter Jack Taylor/Getty Images Standing Next to Shelter

"A frequent sight in the settlements are these shelters being built,” Taylor said. “The refugees arriving in Uganda are encouraged and assisted in making their own accommodation so they can begin a new life on the land they are given." With refugee settlements in Uganda almost at maximum capacity, there are plans for new settlements to be built to deal with the continuing influx of people.

At the Make-Shift Kyangwali Barber Shop Jack Taylor/Getty Images At the Make-Shift Kyangwali Barber Shop

"What was most striking was the stoicism and determination in the faces of the Congolese arrivals who had been forced to flee horrendous violence at home in Ituri,” Taylor said. “Despite the desperate situation they faced, people were dealing with this massive upheaval with composure and strength."