One out of many young victims of the long lasting conflict in Northern Uganda - Photo: H. Atkins
The LRA's war against the government is in fact a war against the people. Their attacks are a constant threat. Children are a much sought after prey for the rebel groups. In the past few years, thousands of minors have been kidnapped from their families, abused as soldiers and sex slaves, and made to carry heavy loads, and many have died as a result.
Children who escaped or were set free often had no family to go back to because either their relatives had been murdered, the children are rejected by the family clan or because they were born as captives.
Always kept busy: SOS mothers in Gulu - Photo: H. Atkins
An aid programme for children in an acute state of emergency was started in 2002 by SOS Children's Villages. Initially, 40 children traumatized by the war were sheltered in a provisionally equipped house and in January 2003 they were able to move into a transitional village with their caretaker. Over 100 children will be cared for by nine mothers and four family helpers there, and parallel to this, an extension is being built for a permanent SOS Children's Village on the same site.
All the children were under the age of six as they were taken in, and the youngest child was only three months old. The parents and grandmother of this girl were murdered in a massacre in the Barlonyo Refugee Camp which occurred at the end of February, 2004.
Waiting patiently in front of the medical centre - Photo: H. Atkins
A day nursery for 60 children has been part of the project plan since May 2004. Some of the children being cared for there were born captive and their mothers, who themselves were minors at the time of their kidnapping receive training in order for them to be able to secure a future for themselves and their children for the long term.
The social centre and the medical centre are very much in demand. On average, some 50 patients are treated daily, each paying 2,000 Ugandan Shillings (app. 1 USD), and some of them travel distances of up to 40 kilometres to get to the medical centre. The medical staff consists of a clinical officer, a nurse, an assistant nurse and a lab technician. According to UN representatives, Gulu has an HIV/AIDS infection rate of 11.9%, the highest in Uganda.
The lab has proved to be very much needed - Photo: H. Atkins
In the social centre, priority is given to youths who are household representatives, to the blind, amputees, or those otherwise disabled. People with HIV/AIDS are also given preferential treatment, for in northern Uganda they would perish quickly without help.
The social centre works together with the German Association for Technical Co-operation (GTZ), which helps youths who are socially endangered and affected by the war. SOS Children's Villages also co-operates closely with the regional authorities and with other non-governmental organisations.
Even the smallest contribution will have a great effect. With EUR 2.74 we can offer a child a secure existence for one day, with EUR 20 for one week and with EUR 80 for one month. That way we support the psychological healing process and give the child a chance for the future. Your donation gives back to these children their right to family, their right to dignity, their right to childhood!