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85%: The Women of the South Sudan Refugee Camp

Rae Ceretto | Uganda


Every day, between 2,000 and 4,000 people cross the border from South Sudan to Northern Uganda. In an effort to address the crisis, the government recently established Palabek Refugee Settlement in Lamwo District of northern Uganda. In a statement, UNHCR notes that of the nearly 1 million refugees fleeing, 85% are women and children. Because of the war, men (often boys) are taken to fight or killed when they refuse. The refugees have little hope of ever returning to South Sudan and continue to report fighting between armed groups, violence and sexual assault, worsening food insecurity and lack of basic services as reasons for fleeing. The Ugandans have provided them with land and UNHCR has provided them with shelter and food. Yet, the majority has little more than a mattress on a dirt floor for their entire family. Some less than that. Most have lived in the camps over a year and reluctantly admit, “Uganda is their home now.” In this series, I wanted to highlight that 85% of women refugees in their new home, Uganda. 

“My second time at the South Sudanese IDP camps in Northern Uganda a woman took my hand and led me into her home. What I saw inside was a piece of her world. A place where friends could go, her children could sleep, and where she could escape from the chaos of the refugee settlement. I have always been interested in documenting issues regarding the human condition and these women were no exception. They are stuck in this limbo of life where they have nowhere to go, their men have no work and are prone to drink, and everyday face the threat disease and death. Yet, despite their desolate situation the women of the camps remain as strong as ever. They take pride in their appearance, children, and keep their homes tidy. They are silent but strong and have faced turmoil we can only imagine. When I started this story, I wanted to fully see these women and their homes are an outward expression of that.”

-Rae Ceretto

Rae Ceretto is an international documentary & portrait photographer focusing on issues surrounding women and children.A Southern California native, Rae has lived and worked around the globe. At the age of 15, Rae moved to Serbia to complete her first documentary film based around the 1999 NATO bombings and death of former Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Since then she has been traveling the world creating stories for variousnon-profitorganizations and publications. Throughout her career, she has documented issues including; healthcare and education reform in rural India, sustainable oral health care for the children of Grenada, outreach work with political refugees in Serbia, working girlsin Bangkok,women’s empowerment in Africa, and the South Sudan refugee crisisin Uganda.



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