Gulu is situated in the north-western region of Uganda, close to the border with South Sudan. It was at the epicentre of the terror wreaked by the Lord’s Resistance Army from the late 1980s until the truce was successfully negotiated in 2006, and gradually normality is returning to the lives of its citizens.
Decades of terror
The decades of terror resulted in the township being flooded with refugees from the surrounding countryside as they fled from terror. Gulu is now Uganda’s second largest city because of the large numbers of internally displaced people who hoped to find sanctuary and have now made their homes there.
The horror and havoc of years of internal conflict will take a long time to overcome; the process of bringing peace and harmony to Uganda is still in its infancy. The years of unrest have also resulted in major damage to the town’s physical infrastructure.
The impact on children
It is unlikely that even those children who were born after Uganda’s darkest days will grow up without being affected by them. Members of their families will hold the memories and the country’s infrastructure will bear the economic and physical scars for years to come. Basic services are often missing and many families lack the necessary support to rebuild their economic lives.
Thousands of Ugandan children lost their parents and other family members, schooling and medical services were disrupted; child abduction and recruitment into the warring armies means that children and young adults saw sights and were forced to do things which they will find impossible to forget. Their education has been disrupted, their families have suffered loss and pain. Across the whole of Uganda, children are still directly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Hope for the future
Oil was recently discovered in the Nowya district, south west of Gulu. The district lacks most basic facilities, and it seems likely that Gulu will benefit from the find by, for example, providing accommodation for oil workers. The influx of economically-active people will bring benefits to its traders and shop-keepers. An oil bill being discussed in Uganda’s parliament proposes that host districts may benefit from being given 7% of oil revenues. This would give Gulu’s public finances a much-needed boost.
Our work in Gulu
We began our work in Gulu in 2002 and our Children’s Village is now home to well over 100 children who have no relatives able to take care of them. Our community work is constantly expanding to enable us to reach as many struggling families as possible.
Our social centre ensures that children living in the wider community have access to essential health and nutritional services, and we assist parents by helping them to develop income-generating skills.
We also provide essential counselling and psychological support. Our medical centre provides medical care and preventative services such as vaccinations. Our nursery and elementary schools provide quality care and education for all appropriately aged children in the locality, and ensure that our children learn how to become citizens of the wider community.
We are a long-term presence in Gulu, supporting children and families coming to terms with the past and looking forward to the future.