Uganda: The Situation
Uganda, a developing nation in East Africa, faces a staggering social and economic crisis as its 1.4 million adults with HIV become desperately ill. Sixty percent are women. In addition, there are 150,000 HIV+ children under 14. Access to anti-retroviral drugs has increased in recent years, but it is more difficult to obtain in rural areas, and often those affected have no food to eat to mitigate the side effects of the powerful drugs on their systems.
An entire generation...those in the middle years...is missing. This is the economically productive generation, and their illness and death leaves the very young and the very old alone to fend for themselves. Uganda wrought a miracle in reducing AIDS infection, going from 21% of the population infected to just 6% infected in just ten years.
This is great news. However, those infected years ago are dying now, and leaving so many children orphans with no safety net at all. The prevalence is now increasing in the younger generation.
In Serere district, there is one hospital serving over 350,000 people. There are 22,000 Ugandans for every doctor available to see them...even if they had money to seek medical care and pay for the transportation to the hospital. For most, there are just neat rows of graves in front of the homes.
The AIDS epidemic added an estimated 1.5 million orphans to a total already inflated by war and civil strife. By 2010, a projected 2.1 million orphans had limited or no access to health care, education, and social services. These children suffer the trauma of caring for one or more sick family members; that stress is often exaggerated by the stigma they encounter in society.
The first AIDS case appeared in Uganda in 1982. Twenty years later, the life expectancy in Uganda dropped from 54 years to 43. In spite of exemplary AIDS awareness programs, Ugandans face a daunting future and innumerable challenges as the epidemic rolls on. In addition to AIDS, malaria, TB and dysentery threaten the lives of its residents. And, in our village, there was also the threat of rebel activity, with the Lord's Resistance Army striking out from the Sudanese border.
One such crisis came at the end of June 2003, when thirty schoolgirls from nearby Soroti district were kidnapped as "wives" for the rebels, and many boys were abducted for use as soldiers. Most of these children, aged 13-17, were never found. Although the government forces moved into Serere in August 2003 to train young people to fight the rebels, Soroti continued in a state of unrest, with hundreds of thousands internally displaced until the last few years.