Situated close to the western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the municipality of Fort Portal sits at the foot of Mount Rwenzori, 5,050 feet above sea level. The area has a population of around 50,000, and covers an area of some 17 square miles.
Fort Portal is proud of its reputation as the cleanest town in Uganda. Its cleanliness is partly due to its good drainage system, but also to the requirement that local businesses have a bin before they can get a licence to trade. Hygiene, both inside and outside the home, is considered the norm. The local economy is predominantly reliant on subsistence agriculture, animal husbandry and commercial fishing in the crater lakes and rivers.
Civil war and human rights abuses
As recently as the 1970s and 80s, human rights abuses were commonplace, and approximately half a million men, women and children were the victims of state-sponsored violence. The terror wreaked by The Lord’s Resistance Army when it became active in the 1990s added to the already widespread fear and violence.
Some two million people in Northern Uganda are believed to have been displaced as a result. Child abduction was widespread and the fate of these children was to become either fighters or sex slaves. Given its location so close to the border; life in Fort Portal has also been disrupted by the war raging in the DRC.
Hope for the future
Recently discovered oil reserves will add to Uganda’s wealth of natural resources and the discovery raises hopes for the country’s economic future. Nonetheless, achieving a reasonable standard of living remains hard for many.
The effect on children
Sadly, children are always affected by civil unrest and rehabilitating those who were abducted or recruited as child soldiers is a slow and uncertain process. They also suffer when there are droughts or other natural disasters limit the amount of food available. HIV/AIDS is prevalent throughout Uganda, and this, too, adversely affects the lives of children. Even if they themselves are not infected, they suffer from the economic and social consequences of widespread debilitation of the adult population.
In 2004, a UNICEF survey estimated that around 50,000 children in the Fort Portal municipality had lost their parents and that the number would rise steadily. While it is not unusual for orphaned children to live with members of their extended family, many households do not have the economic, physical and emotional wherewithal to look after additional children.
Our work in Fort Portal
Our Children’s Village was established in 2010 and provides a home and long-term loving care to children whose families are unable to support them.
Our outreach work supports struggling families in the wider community, while our social centre ensures that children have access to essential health, nutritional services and education. We support parents by helping them to develop income-generating skills and good parenting practice, and we help them access counselling and psychological services when necessary. Our nursery looks after younger children from the community, as well as those who live in our Children’s Village.
We help the most vulnerable children have the happy, healthy childhood they deserve.