There is hope. There is a future where we flourish.
And yet we have a real challenge on our hands.
Mental health issues are the least understood issues in our region. As of 2007, there were three psychiatrists in all of Northern Uganda. (Our Lango subregion alone has 1.7 million people in it.) Overall in Northern Uganda, two to three million people are suffering from mental illness.
Of 1,200 people surveyed in two northern Uganda districts, 54% were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and 67% had depression. 24.8% had suicidal tendencies.
The Ugandan mental health budget stands at .7% of our national budget.
Our region has specific needs. Up to 30,000 children, many from our area, have been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Those who survived have flashbacks and trauma, in addition to wounds and displacement challenges. Children of LRA leaders - whose mothers were forced to bear chidlren - are especially stigmatized though they are innocent of any crime and bear the double burden of being enslaved and having their own fathers being perpetrators of atrocities.
And importantly, women have the terrible trauma of sexual violence.
Two million Northern Ugandans have been displaced and lived in camps.
One manifestation of this trauma is visible drinking and substance abuse.
We are becoming more and more intolerant of substance abuse because of the impact it has on our communities. Young men sit in the middle of a group of mud huts belonging to frail women and young children and sit down in groups, drinking and abusing drugs in the open starting as early as 10:00 a.m. and continue until sun down. Young girls, including our beneficiaries, live in unsecured mud huts just a few feet away from where the men sit and drink day after day. This is not a safe environment for anyone - certainly not the frail elderly and young children.
Parents and youths have taken refuge in heavy drinking, smoking and sniffing of petrol, glue, and other substances leading to untold sufferings of children whose basic needs are not met. The level of crime is very high, especially among youth who find themselves abusing drugs and substances. There are no reformatory centers in the whole of Lango Sub-region.
We know what giving into hopelessness causes. And we need help getting out our message that there is hope. We need trauma counseling, mental health services, and substance abuse interventions.