(An Article i wrote for Female2Female.co.za)
Not many know, but northern Uganda has been terrorised by war since approx 1986, those most affected by this war are the Acholi women and children.
In 1994 the Museveni Government of Uganda, forced the Acholi people out of their villages and into displacement camps, in what they say were camps designed to protect the Acholi against the Lords Resistance Army rebel attacks, however the camps were largely unprotected, and approx 35,000 children have been abducted since this war started.
In the Camps, Women face on a daily basis, violence, poverty, hunger and complete hopelessness. There is no room to grow crops and farm within the camps so the women and children need to leave the relative safety of the camps and farm elsewhere, leaving them open to be raped, abducted or murdered by the rebels. Starting their day to find the food they need to use for the days meal, a womans day in the camps is basically spent, securing, cooking and providing the days meal.
Children are faced each day with a struggle to survive, at the height of the disaster in approx 2003 2005, thousands of children used to commute from the IDP camps and villages to the main towns to seek safety and refuge from the rebels, their homes were no longer safe for them to be at night. The rebels used to come during the night and kidnap the children, slaughtering families and leaving hundreds fleeing for safety. These children were known as the Night Commuters. Since approx 06/07 most night commuting has now ceased due to the rebels leaving the northern Uganda area.
Over the last few years the rebel group has moved from northern Ugandan area and into Southern Sudan, DR Congo and Central African Republic, abducting more children and women, and leaving hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
Due to being in IDP camps there are no real concrete statistics as to the number of those abducted/missing but estimates are between 35,000 and 66,000 Children have been abducted, missing, or killed due to this war.
Today, relative calm in Northern Uganda has seen around 600,000 IDP 217s return home to their villages in Kitgum/Pader and Gulu Region. The daily struggles are still high for those in these areas. Poverty and Famine are everyday killers of children, education is limited, primary education is free but secondary is not, most of the returning IDPS have no income and cannot simply afford to educate their children so once primary education has finished so has the education for most Northern Ugandan Children.
Undetonated landmines are still highly dangerous in the fields nearby to the war zones and corpses/bones are still being found in fields along with abandoned artillery. HIV/AIDS is prevalent among northern Ugandans as they have no way or means for contraception. Rape is used as weapon of war and fear and many women in the north have been abused in some way.
Hepatitis E had a major outbreak recently in Northern Uganda due to the IDPs returning home to villages left unmanned since 1996/1996 and are forced to drink unsanitary water thus spreading water borne diseases such as Hepatitis E, stomach bugs including Diarrhoea and nodding disease.
In recent months, child sacrifices have been on the increase in Northern Uganda with up to 10 children so far in the last few months having fallen victim to child sacrifice.
The conditions of life for the Women and Children of Northern Uganda at this point in time is one of extreme poverty, famine and suffering.
Invisible Children a Non Profit organisation is working closely with the Acholi in Northern Uganda, creating micro-economic programs to help support the IDPs as well as educating over 750 children and re-building the schools of Northern Uganda. For more information or to see video’s of the IDP Camps visit Invisible Children and discover the unseen.
by: Rebecca Fowler