Youth Sport Uganda and their experiences of the pandemic
Every year, we mark World Refugee Day on 20th June. It is a day to celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee and is an occasion to build empathy and an understanding of their plight and resilience. In these times, displaced populations are especially at risk. Sport has been known to play a positive role in the lives of displaced populations, and these organisations have been a crucial part of this movement around sport and refugees. This year, we want to recognise the efforts of organisations working with refugees, as well as highlighting how the pandemic has affected lives of displaced people.
To mark World Refugee Day this year, sportanddev reached out to organisations across the globe who are working with and for refugees. These organisations operate in different regions across Africa, South America and Europe. This article on Youth Sport Uganda’s work is part of the series of articles sharing the stories of these organisations and how they have been affected.
Working in Uganda, Youth Sport Uganda (YSU) is sports for development organization established in 2006 with a mission to offer educational, health and life skills opportunities to vulnerable youths among the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Urban refugees in Uganda through harnessing the power of sports. Over the years, they have reached over 30,000 youths through their various programs in 57 schools and 5 communities using 124 trained coaches. They work with a wide variety of stakeholders, including work with Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Health, and Local Governments among others to deliver programs in the sectors of psychosocial, mental health, protection, health, livelihoods, water and sanitation and education.
What work do they do with refugees?
They have a host of programmes working with IDPs and urban refugees and have also been recognised by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for the work they have done. They have three different programmes for displaced populations:
- Football for WASH: In our Football 4 WASH program; we use the power of football to influence behaviour in the field of water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH) among school going boys and girls. YSU has formed WASH clubs in schools around Kitintale and Naguru slums and teachers are appointed as Patrons of these clubs. These WASH clubs carry out bi-weekly football and hygiene activities to spread the WASH messages.
- Football3: Football3 addresses a range of social topics, such as gender equality, health and cohesion. It empowers young people to take responsibility for their actions and treat others fairly. They learn the value of communication and mutual respect, both on and off the pitch.
- Skills Development: YSU uses Football-based programmes to provide an opportunity to address young adults struggling to enter the job market and help them through education, activities to improve job-seeking skills, vocational training and personal development programmes.
How has the pandemic affected their work?
In Uganda, the impact of COVID-19 on the livelihoods of these refugees is already visible, as access to income generation for refugees has severely decreased. Refugees working as daily labourers in the low-skill informal service industry have been hit hard by the economic downturn, movement restrictions and loss of consumers. According to YSU, “there is increased depression, tension and uncertainty among these refugees, greatly affecting their cohesion with the host communities thus need for more support to the IDPs and Urban refugees. This has greatly affected the approach of our programmes and since we cannot engage the refugees in active sports activities, most of our programmes have had to be re-tailored to suit the conditions of the pandemic.”
The measures that the [Ugandan] Government has introduced to help contain the spread of the virus such as a mandatory lockdown and restrictions on movements, closure of schools, sports facilities and markets, and social distancing have greatly impacted the urban refugees and host communities, leading to severe mental health problems. Looking ahead, “YSU now has to factor these challenges when designing programmes that will help refugees deal with life after the pandemic. We also have to deliver programmes that will help these refugees keep safe, and yet stay active. Their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing is most at stake and we hope that we can give more effort towards improving it.”
What does World Refugee Day mean to them?
For YSU, the World Refugee Day is an opportunity “to draw peoples ‘attention towards refugees and IDPs. It gives us a chance to celebrate their courage and also recognize their needs. It also brings to the forefront our mission which is to empower the most vulnerable people in our communities, because we know that within each one of us is a potential to be great.”