For the past month or so, Uganda has seen attention in the media and among the American public that it hasn’t experienced in several years, thanks to the viral video phenomenon “Kony2012.”
But this story was no surprise to those of us who have worked at World Vision for a while.
For years, World Vision’s incredible team in Uganda has served children who had escaped the clutches of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). World Vision’s own staff members experienced the abduction of their own children or were abducted themselves.
In 1995, World Vision opened its Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda. Since then, World Vision has provided counseling and support to more than 14,000 former child soldiers to help begin their healing process and their reintegration into their families and communities.
Today, there is peace in northern Uganda. Kony and the LRA left Uganda in 2006. Though they continue to wreak havoc in other parts of central Africa, northern Uganda is rebuilding.
But Uganda’s children are not safe. Invisible killers continue to stalk them -- and these killers have a far greater reach than the LRA ever did. Poverty-related diseases like diarrhea, malaria, and malnutrition continue to kill hundreds of Ugandan children every day. Some 4 percent of infants in Uganda die in their first year of life; 9 percent die before the age of 5.
- Diarrhea is the leading cause of death in children in Uganda.
- Approximately 400 people die daily of diarrhea-related diseases in Uganda.
- Malaria is the third leading cause of death in Uganda.
- Malaria kills between 200 and 300 Ugandans every day; most are children under the age of 5.
- Malnutrition is an underlying cause of around 60 percent of child deaths in Uganda.
- 16 percent of Ugandan children under 5 are moderately or severely underweight.
- 38 percent of Ugandan children under 5 are moderately or severely stunted.
World Vision's child sponsorship program in Uganda helps combat preventable causes of child deaths, such as hunger and disease. (Photo: Sylvia Nabanoba/World Vision)
World Vision’s community development programs -- funded by thousands of child sponsorships in Uganda -- continue to help provide anti-malarial bed nets, clean water systems, rehydration treatment, nutritional education, agricultural training, and many more initiatives to combat these silent killers.
In one Ugandan community where World Vision has been working for two years, resources provided through child sponsorships have helped complete a clean water project; supplied families with insecticide-treated bed nets; offered nutritional training; and provided agricultural support to families. Already, the community has seen the incidences of these deadly child illnesses plummet.
Such invisible killers are easily prevented and treated with the right resources. Extreme poverty keeps most of these children’s families from accessing the preventative care and treatment they need, but sponsorship helps many of these families gain access to the resources they need to save their children’s lives.
Joseph Kony remains a danger to central Africa and should be arrested, his captive soldiers released and supported as they return to their homes.
But in the meantime, each of us can help battle the invisible killers of Uganda’s children that remain -- and sponsorship is a critical way to win that war.
Sponsor a child in Uganda today. Sponsorship is the most powerful way you can help fight poverty and preventable child deaths. It provides stability and extra support during times of crisis, as well as a safety net against life-threatening conditions like malnutrition, unsafe drinking water, and disease.