Uganda - Katakwi - 2007

Refugees International Japan visits refugee communities around the world on a regular basis so that we can see at first hand the kind of impact your donations have. We are used to hearing bad news from countries affected by war. However, the people we meet, who are doing their best for their families and their communities, always impress our teams. Their resilience is amazing. The programs we fund help them to rebuild their lives and prepare for the return home.                                        
VISIT REPORT: Lutheran World Federation – Katakwi Program, East Uganda 
This is a program in three schools to provide six months of feeding, teachers’ houses and office facilities. The school feeding committees are provided with foodstuffs, given ration figures and a record book to keep track of stocks each day.
In March/April 2007 there was a tenuous ceasefire in Uganda and Lord’s Resistance Army rebels were in peace talks with the government. Around 400,000 people, some of whose families have been displaced since the 1960s, were slowly returning home from overcrowded camps. The process of return was slow due to poor infrastructure in their home villages – lack of water-points and inadequate schools. 
We took advantage of the improved security situation to visit Uganda to inspect some of the projects we are funding there. The enthusiasm and commitment we encountered were truly inspiring. 
The Ateso region in the east of Uganda comprises Katakwi, Soroti, Amuria and Kumi. 75% of the local population is displaced in Katakwi and Amuria. Displacement is caused by Karamoja cattle raiders and, in Amuria, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raids. The Karamoja problem is easing and there have been few recent incursions.
In camps, one of the main problems is food security. Cultivation near the camp is limited. They can go home to their villages and plant but then they hear rumors of an attack, so they do not stay long enough to tend crops.                                                                
The six-month school feeding program, which was funded by Refugees International Japan in 2007, is to cover the time it takes families to set up gardens to grow their own crops for school meals. 
The feeding program began in February 2007. Before that the children brought their own food to school. There is a school feeding committee made up of pupils, teachers and parents. Their role is to monitor the food – how it is measured, cooked and distributed.
The feeding program has created regular attendance. Parents are happy because their children are not hungry. The project staff are sensitizing parents gradually to take responsibility. A retired headmaster in the community is providing a lot of help. 
In Palam camp, which has 70-100 households, parents were digging holes in preparation for planting fruit trees when we visited. We talked to them about their involvement in the project and the advantages of the work.
School Counselors
As a result of the traumas they have experienced, displaced children fall sick more often than others and tend to be wilder. There are trained counselors in the schools, who work with the children through the medium of drama, dance and role-play. The feeding program has played an important part in this because concentration levels have improved; the pupils stay in school; there is less absenteeism; and they show more respect. 
The main problems now are the number of classrooms, teacher/pupil ratio and staff accommodation. The population is increasing in the nearby villages and, therefore, school enrolment will increase.

Our team met many people during our visit. 
These are some of their stories.

Chairman of School Management Committee
We met the chairman of the Palam School Management Committee who is a parent from Palam camp. He has spent seven years in the camp. He came from a village 5km away, but says, although it seems secure, they do not feel comfortable about moving back. There are only six households from heir village remaining in camp, so they do not feel there are enough of them to protect each other. Other villagers have moved to towns like Katakwi or Soroti.
He says that the school-feeding program relieves pressure at home and the children are more stable – they stay at school and learn better.
“The children now come home happy and do not cause havoc in the camp.”

Inspector of Schools
Aparisa is a resettled village: in other words, villagers have returned from camps to re-establish a community. Some villagers had spent up to 25 years away from home. The school management committee turned out to welcome us. 
The Inspector of Schools, Mr Okiro, said that Aparisa had been a great success. There was no community there previously and the school committee had brought people together with a common goal.