“Waiting for the long grass to grow” / Uganda
Posted by Joanne Offer on 20 August, 2008
Ajok stands in front of Labuje mother camp, where thousands of people fled to escape the Lord’s Resistance Army. Photo: Joanne Offer/The IRC
|Joanne Offer is in Uganda, where the International Rescue Committee is working with Ugandan communities affected by conflict as well as refugees from neighboring Sudan. Read all her posts from Uganda here.
It’s all the K’s in Uganda – after Karamoja and Kiryandongo, we move next to Kitgum district. The IRC has been working in camps here since 1998 to help thousands of Ugandan people displaced by atrocities carried out by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army, (LRA).
Since a peace agreement was struck in 2006, people have gradually been moving back home to their original villages, although many still live in small transit camps while they rebuild their dilapidated houses. To ensure these people have the basic services they need, the IRC is also moving with them. For example we’re fixing village boreholes to improve water sources, we’re building essential sanitation in schools, and we’re setting up support centers to reduce incidences of gender-based violence as people return.
We’re also supporting the government’s local health centers to fight a serious outbreak of hepatitis E, a disease that’s killed more than 100 people in Kitgum this year. Our health teams go daily into the field and we’ve set up a special team on the Sudan border – the point of origin for the outbreak – to diagnose the diseases and offer advice.
As more and more people return home, the IRC is beginning to phase out some of its services. For example, we used to run an adult literacy program in Labuje mother camp. This helped young women like Ajok Irene Innocent, 19, who fled to Labuje about 4 years ago when the LRA attacked her parish of Pagen.
Ajok says, “I dropped out of school when I was 17 to have a baby. I couldn’t stay in school, but IRC’s literacy classes helped me to keep up with my exams and I now go to secondary school like everyone else. It’s definitely helped me while I’ve been in the camps.”
Like many others, Ajok’s family are now getting ready to return to their home village. “We’re just waiting for the long grass to grow so we can use it for the roof of our new house,” she explains. “I want to go home. Here we are too crowded and we have no land. It will be better at home.”