Every day the newspapers are full of stories about the astonishing impact of the refugee crisis as Uganda has welcomed 1.2 million refugees fleeing the violent conflict in South Sudan in just 11 months with 2,000 more arriving every day. There is great emphasis on the benefits of education, however the government has just announced the closure of 1,3000 schools due to appalling conditions. Corruption, torture, human trafficking and the destruction of the environment because of the drought, army worms, and poachers are still everyday events here. Of all the images that are swamping my soul, the images of women here in Kampala have the strongest resonance for me in telling the story of the perseverance and resilience of the people I see here.
I met this beautiful, young Ugandan girl at a birthday party after she had just had her face painted. Her parents goal is to keep her in school, and healthy. Many girls are married off at very young ages (and soon after bear a child) either for profit, or to prevent the girls from being captured into sex slavery by urban militias.
This haunting woman and her child were begging on a very busy street in downtown Kampala. She and many others, including very young children, were begging as they wove their way between cars, trucks, bodabodas (motorcycles used as taxis and mode of transporting goods), and matatus (converted vans that serve as taxi’s with up to 16 people in each one). Begging in traffic is against the law, but poverty drives necessity. I asked our driver how she might have lost her left hand, and he replied, “It is a form or torture to cut off someone’s hand(s) in the northern part of Uganda. She is of the Acholi tribe that has been the targeted by Al-Shebab. Aside from her plight, it is very likely that she, as well as the children, are being “pimped,” and receive almost nothing for their efforts. (iPhone capture through my car window.)
This photograph was taken the day I arrived after a three-day transit, as I began to get excited about being in Uganda. The earth is truly like red clay here, and always catches my eye. This is a scene often sighted: men of all ages standing to the side of the street with a bodaboda nearby. The average age in Uganda is 14 years old, and unemployment is a constant issue, as is education. (iPhone capture through my car window.)
People here seem to effortlessly carry all manner of produce and other objects on their heads.