Addressing Beautiful Arua

Community Development Centre (CDC), what3words and HumanTech Innovation Lab (HTiL) are working together to bring 3-word addresses to refugee settlements in the Arua District of Uganda through the Addressing Beautiful Arua campaign.

The goal of the Addressing Beautiful Arua campaign is to initiate easy and precise addressing to help refugees talk about their locations. In addition, to supporting humanitarian agencies in general with service delivery and emergency responses. Easy and precise addressing also benefits refugees for post, to trade, and with banking services. Read more

What are the expected outcomes of the Addressing Beautiful Arua campaign?

  • Refugee populations will receive 3word addresses and immutable long wearing signage with their unique what3word address for complete clarity and future reference.
  • 3word maps printed and publicly displayed at centres, schools and shops for refugees to learn about their locations.
  • Refugees will also get an easy way to talk about and refer others to their locations and organizations will find it simpler to operate their services, projects and programmes. This will improve meaningful monitoring, reporting and evaluating, with the targeting of beneficiaries and improvement of services offered.

Place names and addresses go beyond their functional value for many communities around the world. They have traditionally been used to connect people and their surroundings, while also having the powerful ability to evoke what a landscape means to people in cultural ways. Everyone can be a placemaker, and the concept of place is similar to culture it is not limited, instead, it is constantly changing.

“Knowledge of places is closely linked to knowledge of the self, to grasping one’s position in the larger scheme of things, including one’s own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is a person.”
― Keith H. Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache 1996

Community Development Centre (CDC)

Community Development Centre (CDC) is a not for profit and non-governmental community that works to address the grassroots needs of indigenous communities in Africa. With an additional focus on establishing platforms for community development. CDC was established in 2014, initially in South Sudan, by young people from the Yei River State (former Central Equatorial State). Currently, CDC is committed to working for the benefit of the communities of people who are hosted in the Arua district. Their empowerment initiatives, capacity building, educational programs and promotion of social, environmental cultural and health values are benefiting the lives of generations of people hosted within the Arua district.


Sebit Martin, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the CDC commented, ‘In the most remote refugee camps, a person has little to say about a location, which at the same time is often confusing and changeable. Not to mention how frustrating it is for ambulance drivers to try and locate emergency cases in a fragile situation of health and often situations where the very lives of persons of concern are at stake. So we are delighted to partner with what3words to solve these and many other problems concerning addressing in the refugee camps in Arua District.’ what3words


CDC strongly support the unique cultural practices of the communities they work with. For example ceremonies, indigenous languages, and an understanding of and promoting a belief in common ancestry. Something that promotes a sense of togetherness amongst members of the community. CDC also supports the communal ownership of property as a cultural practice, which is interconnected with the sharing of resources. CDC values the communities traditional dance performances and festive culinary arts which traditionally have brought families together. Essentially the communities involved in performing these cultural practices benefit through a shared sense of unity and collective responsibility.

‘Finally, we also desire to give refugees the dignity they deserve by improving their living conditions and make 3 word addresses not only an easy way of talking about locations but a better language of hope in the refugee camp.’Sebit Martin, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the CDC what3words




What3words have divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address. They provide a precise and incredibly simple way to talk about location. What are the benefits of better addressing? Improvements in addressing benefit business efficiency, customer experience around the world. In addition, it can drive growth and support for social and economic development.




‘The UN estimates that 4 billion people lack a reliable way to address their homes.’what3words


How does being unable to address a home affect a person?


This directly affects people through how hard it becomes to open bank accounts, register a birth or access electricity or water supplies. Not being reliably able to address a home can also cause people to become invisible to the state. What3words enables the delivery of goods, services and essential humanitarian aid to those who need it most particularly those who live in densely populated or remote regions where addresses often aren’t fit for purpose.

For example


Chris Sheldrick, Jack Waley-Cohen and Mohan Ganesalingam co-founded what3words in 2013 and remain a driving force behind the company.What3words products are also used in the automotive industry by companies such as Mercedes Benz and LandRover, at festivals such as Glastonbury in the UK, with humanitarian initiatives such as the RedCross and the United Nations. The what3words system uses a mathematical algorithm. As this is held in a package around 20MB in size it fits on a modern smartphone empowering people to search for a 3 word address online and offline. This is particularly important for people who have an unreliable data connection.


The HumanTech Innovation Lab (HTiL) is a digital humanitarian initiative, proactively and collaboratively at the intersect between humanitarianism and technology. Specifically, HTiL focuses on displaced persons and issues surrounding the displaced.


Myinform facilitates positive, collaborative engagement + productive outcomes for issues around migration and integration, embodying big data information management through human-centric design.

HTiL will always remain entirely independent partnering only (as the current pilot in Uganda) directly with volunteer refugee led organisations coordinating on the ground in camps + networking only to bring independent professional expertise and programmes and resources directly to those camps via those independent refugee led partners.

Rhino camp

In Northwestern Uganda, within the Arua district is the Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement. This particular place is close to Rhino camp town which is part of the former Lado Enclave (1894-1910). A place that was once the shooting preserve of Belgium’s King Leopold II. Theodore Roosevelt was drawn on an expedition there to find white rhino around 1909. This particular place name emerged from Roosevelt’s naming at the time. Many other names associated with the area have emerged from people who populated the region, such as those who were part of the Bunyoro – Kitara kingdom with place names such as Simbili, Siripi, Agulupi, Tika, Katiku and Ocea.


Image: Smithsonian Mag

Rhino refugee camp opened in Northern Uganda in 1980, it has expanded extensively since then. Essentially, this in response to the influx of refugees affected by the South Sudanese civil war. It has successfully achieved hosting over ‘116,000 refugees’ . Host communities in Uganda have worked with the Office of the Prime Minister(OPM)t o rent or donate land which is used for residential and farming activities by refugees. In addition to the host communities welcoming refugees, humanitarian partnerships have been essential to meeting the needs of families and individuals hosted in Rhino camp. Uganda is currently a temporary home to 1.4 million refugees.


Image: UNHCR

Refugees in Arua district

Policies in relation to refugees in Uganda are seen as progressive and are often used as examples for use in other host countries. Many refugees in Rhino camp have plot sizes between 20-30 square meters, while the camp itself ‘sits on a 294km2 of land spread across its five zones. ‘ In addition to land, refugees benefit from the right to work, travel and access education and other basic services.

Unfortunately, poor addressing is a challenge, one faced by many in remote areas of the world that are hosting new populations of people. Poor addressing affects refugees in various ways. For example, in a camp such as Rhino camp poor addressing directly affects how medical services find people. Something that also impacts the health workers delivering these vital services. 

In addition to innovative policies in Uganda are the innovations in technologies harnessed by humanitarian initiatives within the Arua district. Addressing Beautiful Arua is one such initiative. Digital humanitarian initiatives operate in various ways, what most have in common is their ability to make vital information available in more accessible ways and in real time to the people who need it most. The speed that the information travels is faster than what would be physically possible amongst people in crisis around the world. Speed can also save lives in an emergency situation.

There is a diverse range of other humanitarian organisations also working in Uganda such as The African Initiatives for Relief and Development (AIRD), Care International, International Aid Services (IAS),  Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the Danish Demining Group (DDG)UNICEF, URCS/ICRC and WFP. Throughout Uganda, the names used to describe places have changed in response to the time. Reflecting the transformations that have occurred in response to changes in its political landscape. These place names have over time become part of the everyday lives of the people who live there. The Addressing Beautiful Arua campaign brings 3word addresses to refugee settlements in the Arua District of Uganda. Benefitting transformations within the Ugandan landscape and the lives of the people hosted there. The Campaign empowers people in many practical ways such as access to medical services, but it also empowers the community to experience a sense of place in new ways. For an address or a place name to emerge within the Arua district it has enormous cultural value for the displaced people hosted there.  

‘Place names can offer evidence of changes in the landscape, showing clearly that certain localities do not present the appearance they did in former times.’ Tilley,C.2004.The Materiality of Stone.Oxford:Berg


Read more about what3words

Read more about CDC

Read more about HTiL

Addressing beautiful Aura



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