Kitgum, together with districts of Gulu and Pader, is located in Acholiland, the region traditionally inhabited by the Acholi people in the northern most region of Uganda (bordering Sudan), some 450km north of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.
To the eye, this region is beautiful and lush. With an annual rainfall of 1m and fertile soil, the potential for self sufficiency and good health for the Acholi people is great.
However, such appearances are deceptive.
The AIDS epidemic has ravaged Uganda, resulting in a whole generation of missing parents. The current (2018) population of Uganda is 44,270,000.
Uganda has the world’s youngest population with over 78 percent of its population below the age of 30, and 48% of the total population are under the age of 15 years!
With just under eight million youth aged 15-30, Uganda also has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It is estimated that there are 2.5 million orphaned children across the whole of Uganda.
Northern Uganda was the battleground for one of Africa’s bloodiest and longest-running guerrilla wars. A group of rebel soldiers, known as the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), were engaged in guerilla warfare against the Ugandan government for over 20 years. Their principal tactic was the targeting of the civilian population for killings, abductions, mutilations and other terrible human rights violations and atrocities. The LRA were uniquely renowned for the brutal abduction, at gunpoint, of tens of thousands of Ugandan children, many as young as 10 years of age, forcing them to become “child soldiers”.
Often, abducted children are were commanded to kill, in order to stay alive, many forced to kill members of their own families. Abducted young girls were given as ‘trophies’ to rebel LRA commanders, to be raped, abused and often becoming HIV positive, then left to face the prospect of dying from AIDS. Some children did manage to escape the LRA, but because of what they had witnessed and been forced to do, their lives would never be the same again. Other children who may have been able to escape capture in the first place, now are forced to live with the image of their parents or other members of their family being violently abducted or murdered before their eyes.
For nearly 20 years during the reign of terror of the LRA, the people of northern Uganda were forced by the Government to live in IDP Camps (camps for Internally Displaced Persons) protected by Government troops. Living in squalid and cramped conditions, sickness, malaria, and disease took a huge toll. The end of the war saw thousands of orphans with elderly grandparents being left to care for them. A generation was “missing”.
Recent estimates suggest there are over 65,000 vulnerable and destitute children in northern Uganda alone, due to the combined effects of AIDS, war and displacement, disease and poverty.
The withdrawal of the LRA rebels in 2005 has brought relative peace to the region, but the legacy of 20 years of unrest remains. The traditional family structure has been decimated and children are growing up without family and without hope.
In many cases, the burden of raising orphans in Uganda falls upon surviving family, such as the grandparents or elder siblings who are often not much older than their brothers and sisters. Sadly the grandparents are generally very frail and the siblings too young and inadequately skilled to obtain sufficient income to support the family. Many orphans are simply left to tend to themselves, and with no income, the majority must terminate their education in search of employment but most are lacking the skills to produce an income to meet their daily requirements. And so the tragic downward spiral into further poverty and unimaginable suffering begins.
It is the mission of Cornerstone Foundation to give orphaned teenagers in this region renewed hope through the building of ‘Cornerstone Vocational College’ which will provide a safe haven, the necessities of life, and above all, a practical education so they can rebuild their lives and work towards a more positive future.
Disclaimer: We’ve tried to make the information on this section as accurate as possible, but it is provided ‘as is’ and we accept no responsibility for any errors. We will endeavour to keep this information updated as much as possible.