36 minutes | Jun 30th 2020

We Have to Keep Beating the Odds: Facing a Pandemic in a Humanitarian Setting

In this episode of Finding the Helpers, we had the pleasure of speaking with Isaac Cosmas, a South Sudanese refugee who Playing to Live met while conducting a mental health needs assessment in Rhino camp, a refugee settlement in Uganda. Isaac was there as both a refugee and working as part of the frontline staff providing supporting the mental health needs of other refugees. In his interview, Isaac shares with us his story of struggle, resilience, and brings to light the hardships facing refugees during a global pandemic.

Of about 1.4 million refugees in Ugandan settlements total, about 848,000 are South Sudanese. Isaac describes the uphill battle the South Sudanese face when arriving in Uganda as a result of not being as exposed to the world and to education as Ugandan people. He says he brought one idea with him to the settlement, “We have to beat all odds. We have to continue beating the odds. The benefits of life that come easily, we have to get to the hard way. We have to turn it around to make it succeed."

The pandemic has made things even more difficult for refugees. Isaac speaks extensively about cuts in donor funding, lack of access to information, and the immense stressors on frontline staff. He also shares about how approaches to this virus that have worked in other countries such as the United States and Europe will not work in countries torn apart by war where most citizens are starving or at risk of severe malnutrition, as well as the state of their medical system and lack of testing.

Despite all of this, Isaac and his community are still pushing through, “We still have the hope. And we’re not losing the effort. But I’m quite sure that after this pandemic people will face more serious mental health issues than food and clothes. And it might even kill more people than what COVID-19 is killing.”

You will find more about Isaac's interview, links to resources he has provided about the situation in South Sudan and his non-profit, and the self-care activities from the Playing to Live clinical team inspired by his story, on our blog. You can also email him at vedossd@gmail.com to learn more about his nonprofit (VEDO).

Do you know someone working on the front lines of the COVID-19 response? We want to hear from them. Please connect us with them by emailing us at info@playingtolive.org. And finally, please subscribe to our podcast, rate us, leave a comment, and share the podcast with others who you think may enjoy it. We need your help to share this important story.

A special thanks to Isaac for his time. Thanks to Josh Carter for the theme music (find more at https://prettylittlegoat.com), and to Lindsay Bingaman for writing our blog.