By Moses Ariong
THE is no single orphanage or childcare centre in Karamoja and yet thousands of orphans and abandoned children exist.
The livelihoods of the Karimojong people were majorly derived from raring of the zebu cattle and hunting wild game in the vast lands of Karamoja until recently, when the Government embarked on a disarmament process and discouraged nomadic tendencies of the Karimojong.
Due to the low levels of Education (Dan Church Aid conducted a research in 2007 which showed that 88% of Karimojong cannot read and write despite the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program) and the high affinity to cultural norms and practices, the region has been the worst performer in all sectors of development in the country.
A report published in the relief web on April 30, 2012 stated that only five hospitals serve seven districts in the region whose population is 1.2 million scattered over some 28,000 square kilometers. Over 5,000 children are reportedly malnourished in as per a newspaper article on November 3, 2013.
When I last visited Moroto in 2012, I came across this young girl who was vending items around Moroto town. It was midday but these girls were in the streets chasing after a few customers.
I was bothered by this because Lomongs’ age group can rarely be seen outside school during these hours in many other parts of the country. I inquired from this girl why she was out of school and she told me that her mother was sick and there was nothing to eat at home.
She had to make some money to meet the household needs and could not afford to spend the much needed time – for looking for money and get some food and medicare home, in school.
“I miss school and would like to go back to school but I don’t even have books and uniform to start with”, she narrates.
Developers have preferred to concentrate in Kampala and other “above average” parts of the country in detriment to Karamoja region. They, however, forgot and have greatly missed the beauty of Karamoja, the animal and cultural paradise. Ever seen thorny trees that make “Musical sounds” from their fruits?
Karamoja requires support in the areas of Education – to increase literacy and numeracy skills; Food security and livelihoods enhancement programmes to empower the widows and the jobless young people; infrastructure development like roads, health units, electricity among others.
I will appeal to all those who have humanity at heart, those who believe that every child deserves a good start in life, those who respect the role of mothers and the challenges they face while raising their young ones, to those who want to see a just and fair world, where everyone has an opportunity to reach their full inherent potential and to those who promote health equity and believe that one day, the notion “health for all” can be achieved.
The people of Karamoja are calling on us. The mothers, orphans, the sick, the disabled, the people living with HIV/AIDS, thousands of malnourished children need our help. Let’s not leave Karamoja to the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs!
Writer is the Programmes Officer, Partners for Children Worldwide