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During her research stay in 2016, in Northern Uganda, ESR Sophie Roupetz started a collaboration with Empowerment Action for Community Health-Uganda (EACH), a local Non-Governmental Organisation serving needy communities through peace building and good governance. Her aim was to help them establish a trauma centre for victims of war. Trauma in Northern Uganda has resulted from the atrocities that occurred during the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict, lasting two decades and claiming many lives. War–affected people have been: ritually terrorised; sexually exploited and abused; forced to kill; and forced to watch beatings, rape and killing of friends and relatives. Because of this, thousands of victims were left traumatized by their experiences and need a lot of support towards trauma healing and recovery.
“Our experiences as EACH Uganda and the current research we are working on shows that depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are the most prevalent of the disorders that stem from traumatic events. A father’s PTSD may result in gender-based violence which then traumatizes both the mother and the child, thus creating a new generation of trauma that was not directly affected by the war.” (Daniel, EACH Uganda)
A girl of 17 years old, living in Adagayela village in Adekokwok Sub County, told EACH her story:
“I left our home when I was only five years of age to go and look for my mother who was chased away by our father. He used to beat her almost every day in our presence, complaining that she was making me to practice prostitution. This came because our mother used to send me to go and fetch water, unfortunately the water source was far- at least 2KM from home - and very many people would be queuing for it. One day I came back from school in the evening and went for water, then on my way back, a boy who was at one time abducted by the LRA rebels, ambushed me. I tried my best to defend myself but couldn’t. Finally, they raped me and then ran away. On reporting home, my father started to beat me and forced me out of home. That night I decided to go to my uncle’s home and stayed there for a while but life was just hard for me because his children was going to school but I was remaining home. Later on, a neighbour who had heard about EACH Uganda’s program over the radio, told me it and I went to their office. I was welcomed at EACH, they counselled me and they enrolled me for a vocational training for machine knitting which I do right now. I know with or without any one near me, I will be in position to support myself through what EACH has done for me. I have finally gained a lot of hope in my life may God bless EACH Uganda and all those who support you”
Many of the victims returning from war to the villages were subjected to discrimination and stigmatisation, and barely had a chance to find their place within the communities.
But since the war, the government of Uganda and other international partners seem to have focused on infrastructure projects like roads, communication networks and of consolidating peace, including resettlement programmes for conflict affected communities but very little on psychosocial aspect. This is why EACH developed their plan to establish the trauma centre with an intervention targeting at risk groups with counselling, psychosocial support and medication prescriptions. The main challenge is that the resource at hand is not enough to cater for the entire project activities.
After her stay, in spring of this year, ESR Sophie Roupetz initiated a CrowdFunding to bring together the necessary amount of 3,000 Euro for land acquisition and constructing the building at least to foundation level. To move forward with raising funds to complete the building and to solve logistic issues, ESR Sophie Roupetz just started a follow up of their successful initiative
Meanwhile, the NGO is advertising their work in the region and calling for more support from donors, friends and international organisations.
“We are really trying our best to mobilize funds locally to construct the building, and just last week we raised 1,200,000 Uganda shillings. We are using this money to raise the wall of the building as we continue working hard for more. On the side of the latrine, we have now completed plastering, and are finishing the painting.” (Daniel, EACH Uganda)
“To our esteem donors, our great donors bought the land, built the toilet and the building of the wall is in progress, we have gone far and soon hope will begin to shine on the faces of the victims of war, rape and domestic violence.” (Victoria, EACH Uganda)
Furthermore, establishing the trauma centre will not only support Ugandan victims of war, but also become an important source of help for those currently fleeing the civil war in South Sudan. Uganda has welcomed an unprecedented number of refugees with open arms, maintaining open borders to people fleeing war and violence. However, the influx of South Sudanese refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries has become the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Thus, there is serious need for local leaders, beneficiary communities and other development partners in the region to come together to fight the trauma and to remind the community on the rights and value of the war affected victims by creating awareness in the public.