A program to help ex-child soldiers in Northern Uganda is being updated to give more assistance to communities that have been torn apart by appalling atrocities.
"We are currently revising and re-releasing the Rehabilitation and Reintegration project that we implemented in Northern Uganda last year. The new appeal will be more general so it can reach a wider group of affected people and address a wider number of needs", said Scott Martin, Australia Partnership Development Coordinator, currently working in Nairobi, Kenya.
Last month Mr Martin visited Gulu in the north of Uganda and witnessed first hand the plight of thousands of people living in that part of Africa.
The revised appeal is evidence of Caritas' commitment to bringing peace and solidarity to a country devastated by almost two decades of violence. The focus of the program, which was initially to help ex-child soldiers reunite with their families and communities, has widened to provide the broader community with much needed aid.
"The focus will not only be on the rehabilitation of child soldiers by providing them with counseling, food and clothing, but on advocacy and education. While we still recognise the need of providing affected communities with essential items such as blankets, for instance, as well as assisting the thousands of people living in displacement camps, we feel that a greater emphasis needs to be placed on the education of the Ugandan government and members of the public", Mr Martin said.
"We were amazed to hear that many Ugandans in the west and south of the country are largely unaware of the seriousness of the war in the north and the effect it is having on their fellow country men and women. We need to develop a dialogue with these people, as well as those affected, so that we can work towards a future of peace", Mr Martin said.
Not only are many people in Uganda unaware of this emergency, the majority of the international community remains oblivious to the atrocities occurring in Northern Uganda.
"This is truly a forgotten emergency and I am amazed at how relatively little attention and support it is receiving", Mr Martin said.
Northern Uganda has been caught up in armed conflict since 1987 when the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was formed as an anti-government militia group. It now operates in Northern Uganda and parts of Sudan.
Ironically, the LRA rebels claim they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the Ten Commandments, and yet they continue to commit atrocities such as raiding villages and abducting young children.
"When I visited Gulu I was struck by the quality of life that many are enduring. Besides the extreme violence inflicted on the people here by the LRA, there is a general sense of misery because people have lost loved ones, either through abductions or killings, and live in constant fear and uncertainty of being attacked. Thousands of families have been forced to suffer the indignity of being herded into displaced camps for security reasons", Mr Martin said.
"The frustration expressed by some of the people we met in the camps is totally understandable. We were standing in a squalid camp surrounded by underfed, some malnourished, people and literally several hundred metres away are their farms which they are unable to cultivate for fear of attack by the LRA."
Caritas Australia is committed to the people of Northern Uganda as they continue to live amidst suffering and injustice. But in order to assist the increasing number of people who have been caught up in this violence, Caritas Australia needs your support. You can make a donation to the program by calling1800 024 413 or by donating online.
For more information please contact:
Ph: (02) 9956 5799 or 0417 284 831