Uganda is a country in East Africa roughly the size of the state of Oregon, teeming with 39 million people, nearly 10 times that of Oregon. This densely populated country is the youngest in the world, with more than half of its inhabitants below the age of 15. An estimated 3.2 million of these children are orphans.
Uganda became independent from British rule in 1962. Tribal warfare ensued. The Ugandan people were brutalized under the dictatorial regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin. Finally, in 1986, with the election of Yoweri Museveni as President of Uganda, the country entered a period of relative stability and peace.
Just as Uganda was moving toward political stability, the HIV/AIDS epidemic struck. This country was one of the hardest hit and lost almost an entire generation of adults in a few years. The cultural practice of polygamy and the widespread abuse of women contributed to the rapid spread of the disease.
Years of war, genocide, and disease dealt Uganda severe disadvantages in standards of living, health, education, and prosperity. Most Ugandans continue to suffer from extreme poverty.
- Roughly 40% live on less than $1.25 per day.
- Only 8% have access to electricity and even less than that have running water.
- Most live in mud and wattle huts.
- The majority work at subsistence farming, making barely enough to feed their own families.
- Child labor is common and many children drop out of school to work or to marry.
- 57% of children do NOT complete primary school. Less than 30% even enroll in secondary school (begins in grade eight) and only 2% graduate.
- Most girls marry by the age of 18 and immediately bear children. Less than half of their births will be attended by skilled medical care, so many will die in childbirth. There are only eight doctors per 100,000 people and most are inaccessible to the average Ugandan.
- Uganda also suffers from persistent belief patterns that tolerate child sacrifice, cannibalism, polygamy, female genital mutilation, tribalism, domestic abuse, and the subjugation of women in general.
There are not enough government resources to feed, house, clothe, and educate Uganda’s orphans. The children are left to fend for themselves. The lucky ones have old grannies or sympathetic neighbors who may help. These older relatives and friends are barely able to care for themselves and their own, so their efforts are inadequate to meet the child’s needs. Children without support systems end up on the streets, begging for food, eating out of trash bins, drinking out of stagnant pools, running from dangers, wandering alone – hungry and scared. Almost all forgo education. It is a hopeless plight for most and breeds a cycle of generational poverty.
This nation of children is in desperate need of help.