Hear the Cries of IDPs in Northern Uganda
As I wrote yesterday, I traveled to two of the camps in the Lira district on Saturday, two camps in the municipality called Starch Factory and Erute Camp. In both of the camps, I was welcomed because the only hope for these people is that the international community will act. They believe justifiably that the government will continue to ignore their plight, and they fear that peace will not come anytime in the near future. I was able to interview some of the camp leaders, getting the following quotes and thoughts:
"We have no food. People are starving everywhere. The World Food Programme comes, but only distributes food to vulnerable peoples, like orphans, the disabled and the elderly. Yet, we are all vulnerable people. Starvation is the number one problem here."
"There are many abducted children in the camps, presenting major psychological challenges. Actually, everyone here is psychologially traumatized."
"Our roofes are broken, and when it rains, it soaks through to the mud where people sleep."
"We are a hopeless people. In many ways, we are already dead."
"The government has no plans for us. Even our local leaders have not come to visit the camps."
"We will support anyone right now as long as they get peace."
"Waves of people tried to return to the villages, but they were all killed and abducted. We have no hope of returning home. Even in these camps, we don't feel safe."
"I greatly fear for the generation of our children. Their future is totally blocked. Their future is ruined. Our children are paralyzed."
It is truly awful and disturbing. Today, I am still vividly haunted by these words and the horrific images that accompanied them. How can people be forced to live in such despair and degradation? And how can we remain silent aware of such mass suffering? More than images and quotations, however, I find myself acutely recalling my own feelings walking through the camp - wanting to break down and cry, feeling hopeless and miserable, needing to vomit. I have never seen anything so violently dehumanizing in my life.
Like I wrote yesterday, I continue my plea to all who come across the blog: spread the awareness, donate money and most of all, contact government leaders to put pressure on action for peace in northern Uganda. When I was leaving one camp, I told the people that I will return in April to conduct interviews (and I will be for one week), and one man said to me, "I hope we will be alive when you return."