By Doreen Bazio.

 “Who will now take care of us when the project ends in December?” Kevin Cezirina, 40, who is lame, laments as we interact on the benefit of DRDIP to her community.

Cezirina, a resident of Maaji III Block A Refugee Settlement, has mixed feelings whenever she reflects on the impact that Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP) has had in her community especially for persons with special needs and persons with disabilities. While she is grateful for how the project has changed her life, she is now worried about how life will be should the project end.

The elderly woman has mainly achieved two milestones. She has been able to not only effortlessly pay school fees for her 2 grandchildren whose parents were robbed by the 2014 South Sudan war but also provide for them food after she lost the opportunity to benefit for food ration provided to refugees by World Food Program. This is because she receives a modest allowance of Ugx 4,000/= daily after working in the group garden under the small scale irrigation scheme while each person does a mandatory saving of Ugx 1,500/= that will be used at the end of the project to form a SACCO.

Cezirina also reveals that inclusion of her amongst the beneficiaries of the projects has not only built her confidence but that of her peers both financially and socially.

“Persons with Disabilities are no longer portrayed as idle or lazy because we make an effort to work and this has boasted our confidence in social circles and amongst peers. We used to feel low self-esteem because we considered other able bodied people better than us” Cezira acknowledges

According to Ataba Christopher, 37, the Chairperson Project Management Committee, this confidence is birthed by the knowledge and skills beneficiaries gain through trainings, mentorship and capacity building.

“We have leant that it is important in life to have a vision and a target. Working together here has inspired us to dream bigger and make an effort to be role model farmers and agriculture group.” Christopher notes.

However, unlike Cezirina, Akuti Mark, the Chairperson of the group, the empowerment acquired is sufficient for sustainability should the project cease to exist one day. Akuti who describes himself as a visionary farmer has a dream of supplying vegetables to Ma’di Sub Region with Obongi District already secured as an entry point. Akuti also says that DRDIP has helped him network with other organizations during high profile meetings that have not only sharpened his leadership skills but makes advocacy and lobbying for the group much easier than before.

“They invite us for different meetings at the district headquarters and in town. From these meetings we interact with many people and get knowledge. For example last week they called for sensitization about GBV and all stakeholders were there.” Akuti observes.

Disabled persons who leave their countries find themselves in particularly disadvantaged situations because the transition makes them extremely vulnerable due to the need for special attention. Refugees with disabilities are often overlooked and in some cases, leaders in refugees’ settlements are often more willing but not very well aware of how to support persons with disabilities. DRDIP emphasizes the importance to address the needs of vulnerable groups among those displaced.

Cezirina is one of the 95 beneficiaries of Maaji III Block A Refugee Settlement Small Scale Irrigation Scheme that was started in 2021. Of these, 15 are disabled and 15 are refugees. The group owns a 2 acre piece of land where they have planted vegetables and fruits like: Onions, Tomatoes, Egg plants, Sukuma wiki, Ntula and water melon. They received 156 million from DRDIP and have been getting technical support from Agri Farm Uganda Limited since June 2023. Maaji Refugee Settlement divided into I, II and III is home to about 40,000 refugees. According to UNHCR, Uganda has 112,510 disabled refugees out of 1,501,552 as of January 2023.