Facing The Challenges Of AIDs
Uganda has the largest number of children in the world orphaned by AIDS where nearly 1.7 million children have either lost their mother or both parents since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980's. Catholic Relief Services has been instrumental in assisting several Catholic operated health facilities with home-based patient care programs.
"Catholic Relief Services, in coordination with its CIDSE partner, CAFOD are looking to refine and implement our AIDS strategy in this region and envision this as an opportunity to implement home care and counseling programs in Uganda." says Gloria Peterson-Ayigah, CRS East Africa Regional Representative.
Other Emergency Activities
Rebel activity in the northern and western parts of Uganda have adversely affected thousands of families. In the west, early December has seen renewed hostilities with the rebels making major attacks on a prison (to free more than 300 prisoners), military installations and displaced camps. However, in the north there has been relative peace in 1999 and life is gradually returning to normal.
Who Is CRS Reaching And With What Aid?
Catholic Relief Services, with support from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the Caritas network, is responding to these emergency situations. The first objective is to increase the availability of food for the internally displaced people.
To support farming activities in the North Catholic Relief Services staff, working with the local organization ACDI, are focusing on growing maize, beans, groundnuts and cassava. The rainfall has been normal this season and there are hopes that the crops will be successful. The farmers who planted beans during the first season have started harvesting already.
Additional funds received in coordination with this project are being used for the rehabilitation of schools and bridges through food for work funding. This food exchange is commonly known as Food for Work (FFW). The project follows the traditional practices of the Acholi people and is supported by local government authorities, the donor of food resources, the Church, and the beneficiaries themselves.
Mbale District, in eastern Uganda's mountainous area that has been prone to landslides, suffered heavy rains resulting in another landslide. Reportedly 18 people died (between the ages of 3-15), 57 residential houses and one school were completely damaged, 112 houses were damaged beyond repair and nearly 10,000 people were displaced. In an effort to aid the victims, CRS/Uganda has coordinated with other agencies working in the area to provide blankets and soap.
In western Uganda, there are approximately 420,000 internally displaced people needing food. Many are in the area of Bundibugyo Town, which is located just below Lake Albert on the Congolese border. The journey to Bundibugyo requires one to traverse the northern end of the Rwenzori Mountains. This trip takes about six hours and requires a military escort through a dangerous 13-mile stretch. Many of the internally displaced people living here are also subject to rebel attack and often move from one site to another seeking greater security.
To date, CRS/Uganda has responded by:
- Providing more than 480 metric tons of emergency food assistance to over 47,000 internally displaced persons in the districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Kabarole;
- Distributing non-food items to about 3,200 internally displaced persons; and
- Building the capacity of CRS' local partners to manage relief assistance.
At the Catholic Mission in Bundibugyo Town, CRS staff met Father Benedict Kakwezi. Father Benedict was pleased to see that Catholic Relief Services made the effort to reach the area since, as the father explained, very few people actually make the trip to visit Bundibugyo due to the lack of security.
Background of the Situation
In northern Uganda the continued looting, raping, killing and abduction carried out by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army has compelled peasant families to seek refuge away from their ancestral farms. To avoid this terrorism, rural populations have either congregated in "protected villages", moved in with host families, or have found some shelter in hospitals, schools, or other buildings.
Even with the return of peace to northern Uganda the people are faced with a major task of trying to rebuild their lives. Villages/homes have been destroyed, cropping system is in disarray, means are short and the infrastructure is in disrepair.
In western Uganda the internally displaced people face a future without a reliable source of food, availability of water or medicines. In an interview with mothers, almost all of them indicated that their children go at least one day a week without a meal. As the rebels continue to make successful attacks and raids, the displaced families have very little hope.
CRS/Uganda is working with two church partners (Catholic & Anglican) in the north and has recently begun a project to allow them to further their work in peace and reconciliation. It is expected that if peace is maintained it will be necessary to accommodate back into their society many who either were abducted by the rebels or those who were actively in the rebel force.
The government, non-governmental organizations and the Church will to work together to find ways of ensuring security and benefits for the returning persons.