Gulu is located in northwestern Uganda and is the commercial and administrative centre of the Gulu District. It has a population of approximately 150,000. The Gulu region is the historic homeland of the Acholi people, and it was at the centre of the violent conflict that riddled the country for decades. Gulu has become the country’s second largest city due to the great number of internal migrants from rural areas who fled here.Internally displaced people in the north of the country experience dire living conditions. Some children have lost parental care entirely as a result of the conflict or disease.
Since 2002, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Gulu.
Conflict in Uganda has displaced many people in the country. In the camps that were set up for the internally displaced, people were dying every week, mainly from disease. Even after the conflict ended, violence continued, leaving children particularly vulnerable. Most of the internally displaced have returned to their hometowns, but returning to a normal life is fraught with challenges. Basic services are often lacking and families lack support to rebuild their livelihoods. It is particularly difficult for female-headed households, as they cannot reclaim the land they used to own if the husband or father is dead. Many children and young people have completely lost parental care and are extremely vulnerable. They need psychological help and support.
1.3 million HIV/AIDS remains a public health challenge all over Uganda, but the situation is very severe in the north of the country. During the conflict, the shelters for internally displaced people were very densely populated and had only minimum access to basic sanitation facilities or healthcare. Disease spread quickly and many people, including children, fell ill. In Uganda, around 100 000 children are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. Even in cases where children are not directly affected by disease, it is a tragic reality for many children and young people to lose their parents to HIV/AIDS. They have to find ways of making a living, often at the expense of getting an education. This diminishes their chances to escape poverty.