Children growing up in the developing country of Uganda, where Project Have Hope works, are vulnerable to a variety of challenging issues. The Ugandan population is young - over 57% of Ugandans are under the age of 14. In this look at the issues, we focus upon five key matters: Health, Hunger, Schooling, Trauma, and Water and Sanitation, and how Project Have Hope is working to address a number of these complex concerns.
The health risks to children begin at birth – Uganda’s infant mortality rate is 61 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is the 27th highest infant mortality rate in the world.
Malaria, respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases are the major causes of mortality for children under 5 years of age. Just 10% of Ugandan children slept under an insecticide-treated mosquito net each night to prevent malaria as of 2009. Project Have Hope has introducedsolar cooking and reduced charcoal cooking techniques to a group of our members to reduce smoke exposure in the home and improve respiratory health. We also run a deworming program every 4 months for the children sponsored in school to treat parasitic intestinal worms. WAPIs, which indicate when water has been boiled adequately and is safe to drink, were integrated into our solar cooking training to increase access to sanitary water and decrease waterborne diarrheal diseases.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to have a damaging impact on the country. An estimated 1.2 million Ugandan children have been orphaned by AIDS, and 150,000 children under the age of 15 are living with HIV. Many Project Have Hope members have taken in children orphaned by AIDS. Project Have Hope connects the families who are most in need, often these generous families, with school sponsorships.
Creamland School Meal Program
Hunger is a painful reality that many Ugandan children struggle with everyday. Inadequate nutrition at a young age prevents children from developing properly, both physically and cognitively. Malnourished children are also more vulnerable to illness. 16.4% of Ugandan children under 5 years of age are underweight, and 38% of children experience stunted growth. Project Have Hope’s agricultural programs help families address food security and create a stable source of income. Our students enrolled at Creamland Primary School are also enrolled in a breakfast program to ensure that they receive at least one healthy meal each day.
Despite Uganda’s official policy of Universal Primary Education, children do not have access to schooling unless they can afford additional fees and the school’s list of requirements, which includes a uniform, school supplies and cleaning supplies. Even if school fees have been paid, a child can be sent home from school if unable to bring required supplies. Without an education, securing a stable job will be extremely difficult for these children. Project Have Hope’s School Sponsorship program currently enrolls 104 children in school.
Money is not the only obstacle to school attendance – illness with malaria, diarrhea or a parasite, long distances to the nearest school and the need for children from poor families to make an income or help with household responsibilities can also prevent a child from coming to school. Once at school, hunger and illness can make it difficult for a child to concentrate and learn.
The Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, wreaked havoc in Northern Uganda for over two decades. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is notorious for its brutality, abduction of children, and use of child soldiers. Most of the residents of the Acholi Quarter are internally displaced refugees who fled from Northern Uganda to seek safety after experiencing horrific atrocities. Today they are left to face the psychological and physical trauma that was left behind. The stress of the fear, violence, and loss that the families have experienced has severe and long-lasting effects. For the children of the Acholi Quarter, Project Have Hope seeks to provide a sense of unity and a place to practice cultural traditions with the provision of the community center. We also aim to empower these children with the opportunities of education.
67% of Ugandans had increased access to improved drinking water sources and 48% had access to improved sanitation facilities as of 2008. Unsafe water carries disease and a lack of sanitary facilities leads to conditions that breed disease and taint water sources. Project Have Hope sees dysentery and parasites, as well as outbreaks of cholera and typhoid in the Acholi Quarter from water sources. Children are particularly susceptible to these diseases. As noted above, diarrheal diseases, often waterborne, are a main cause of mortality for children under 5. Our solar cooking program helps families to afford the cost of boiling water to make it sanitary. WAPIs, which indicate when water has been boiled adequately and is safe to drink, were also integrated into our solar cooking training to increase access to sanitary water and decrease waterborne disease.
Sources: CIA – The World Factbook, Unicef Uganda (The State of the World’s Children 2011 and UNDP Human Development Report 2010)
Please note: This discussion is certainly not exhaustive, but aims to address several key issues.