THE PEARL OF AFRICA
Although Uganda is a small country, it has a lot to offer in natural beauty. Known as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda has it all - beautifully clear lakes, misty rain forests, snow-capped mountains, breath-taking vistas, emerald-green rolling hills - and this is only the beginning.
For animal enthusiasts, wildlife in Uganda is abundant. The Virunga Mountains that straddle Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the southwest border of Uganda, are home to half of the 700 mountain gorillas left on the planet. The other half are found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda further north.
Endangered chimpanzees also live in the rain forests of western Uganda bordering Rwanda and Tanzania. The largest number of bird species in Africa are found in Uganda, most of them in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Don’t forget about the Nile River that snakes its way through the country to its source, Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake, which takes up a huge chunk of our southern border with Tanzania.
Even though the people of Uganda are faced with many hardships, they are a friendly, hard-working and hospitable people. They are fighting the uphill battle of a nation emerging from the ashes of a 20-year civil war which decimated and scattered the Acholi population of Northern Uganda, precisely where we, at the Future Is Now Uganda, are located.
“Uganda's history has been ravaged by civil war and ethnic tensions. Beginning in 1985, the northern region of Uganda felt the effects of these tensions when war broke out between the Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Led by Joseph Kony, the LRA has gained power through horrific massacres and killings. The tension lies in Kony's radical beliefs of Acholi military extremism, and his rejection of trust in the Ugandan government. Kony's main objective is to cleanse Northern Uganda of the older generation of the Acholi people, and rebuild the culture according to his own ideologies.”(Kristen E. Cheney, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Dayton)
An army of tens of thousands of abducted children, enlisted through violent force, helped him to exterminate the Acholi people - their own people. If they weren't forced to commit the atrocities of war these children were made to be porters or sex slaves. According to the UN, the LRA is responsible for the displacement of nearly 95% of the Acholi population in three districts of northern Uganda.
in 1999, when the Ugandan miliitary was unable to drive out the LRA, the government started to herd the Acholi civilian population into ‘protected camps' - another name for concentrations camps. Resistance was met with beatings or random shelling of their villages.
The conditions in these camps were horrific. Because the military was unsuccessful in their attempts to prevent LRA attacks on the camps, the violence and killings continued. Meanwhile, diseases like Cholera, Ebola and HIV/AIDS spread as a result of poor hygiene and over-crowding in the camps. Malaria was rampant.
"At the height of the conflict 1.8 million people lived in such camps and roughly 1,000 of them were dying each week. Many northern Ugandans – from political and religious leaders to ordinary citizens – have claimed that this UPDF policy amounts to genocide." (Patrick Wegner PhD student at the University of Tübingen, April 2012)
Because many northern Ugandans believe that they have been wronged by their government, civil unrest still exists in the north.
With so many people displaced and killed during the civil war and its aftermath or dying from AIDS and malaria, one of Uganda's biggest challenges is supporting their extremely young population. With almost half of its people under the age of 15 years, Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations that is quickly growing due to a high fertility rate estimated at 5.7 children per woman (2015).
UGANDA AGE DISTRIBUTION
Ugandan Age Distribution Percentages
Ugandan Population in Millions
POVERTY, Women's inequality & hiv/aids
Uganda is ranked the 19th poorest in the world, with an average annual income per person of $1,836. By comparison, the USA is the 9th richest country in the world with an average annual income per person of $57,045. The poorest country, in the world has an average income of just over $600.
Despite a wealth of natural resources like copper, gold, oil and other minerals, Uganda still has a slowly developing economy and the massive dilemna of extreme poverty found in the rural areas, such as our town of Gulu.
In 2012, the World Bank reported that 37.8% of the population lived on less than $1.25 a day, a far cry from the $1,836 the average person earns each year in Uganda.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said the following:
“The absolute number of poor people [in Uganda] has increased due to population growth. And poverty remains firmly entrenched in rural areas, which are home to 87 per cent of Ugandans. About 30 per cent of all rural people – some 10 million men, women and children – still live below the national rural poverty line.
Uganda’s poorest people include hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers living in remote areas scattered throughout the country. Remoteness makes people poor inasmuch as it prevents them from benefiting from Uganda’s steady economic growth and dynamic modernization. In remote rural areas, smallholder farmers do not have access to the vehicles and roads they need to transport their produce, and market linkages are weak or nonexistent.
These farmers lack inputs and technology to help them increase their production and reduce pests and disease. They also lack access to financial services, which would enable them to boost their incomes – both by improving and expanding their production, and by establishing small enterprises.”
The World Bank said this of Uganda's rural population of women:
“90% of all rural women work in the agricultural sector. In addition to agricultural work, rural women are responsible for the caretaking of their families. The average Ugandan woman spends 9 hours a day on domestic tasks, such as preparing food and clothing, fetching water and firewood, and caring for the elderly, the sick as well as orphans. As such, women on average work longer hours than men, between 12 and 18 hours per day, with a mean of 15 hours, as compared to men, who work between 8 and 10 hours a day.”
AVERT, an organization increasing awareness of HIV and AIDS, also spoke of the plight of the women of rural Uganda:
“To supplement their income, rural women may engage in small-scale entrepreneurial activities such as rearing and selling local breeds of animals. Nonetheless, because of their heavy workload, they have little time for these income-generating activities. The poor cannot support their children at school and in most cases, girls drop out of school to help out in domestic work or to get married. Other girls engage in sex work. As a result, young women tend to have older and more sexually experienced partners and this puts women at a disproportionate risk of getting affected by HIV, accounting for about 57% of all adults living with HIV.”