Uganda: Update March 2000

Addressing 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.

In an effort to access the struggle against AIDS, CRS/Uganda completed an assessment study of the AIDS Home Care and Counseling projects in Uganda. "Creating an understanding of the environment the programs operate under was the primary purpose of the study," says Dr. Simon Sentunbwe, CRS/Uganda consultant. 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.

Catholic Relief Services and CAFOD organized an AIDS workshop in late February. The goal of the workshop was to discuss the need to increase the quality and sustainability of the home care and counseling projects. Make a virtual visit to one of CRS/Uganda's AIDS's projects by clicking here.

Other Emergency Activities

In the north there has been increased activity by rebel and allied forces operating in the Western and Northern districts of Uganda, hampering relief and development activities in the affected areas. Increased security issues are a concern for relief and development agencies working in Bundibugyo, Gulu and Kitgum. Road ambushes have become a common occurrence outside of the main townships.

Ongoing Activities

Catholic Relief Services, with support from the United Nations World Food Program and the Caritas network, responded to these emergency situations. Increasing the availability of food was the first objective of the agency. In the North, Catholic Relief Services staff members are working with the local organization ACDI, focusing on growing maize, beans, groundnuts and cassava.

The farmers are experiencing a normal rainfall so far this season and have successful harvests of beans to date. 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.

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. The people of northern Uganda 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.

ICRS/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 work together to find ways of ensuring security and benefits for the returning persons.

Agency History

Catholic Relief Services started programming in Uganda in the early 1980s focusing on AIDS and Micro-Finance projects. The agency officially opened an office in 1996 and the program expanded to be able to respond to emergencies in the country.

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