Winding Down at Acholi Quarter

The Acholi Quarter is a neighborhood in Kampala, where around 11,000 people from the Acholi tribe live. Or maybe more accurately, where they’ve ended up. After a few decades of atrocities from Joseph Kony and others in Sudan and Northern Uganda, 11,000 Acholi people are living in one of the world’s worst slums in Uganda, or anywhere in the world.

Today I spent most of the day in the Acholi Quarter with a Loving One by One team, providing deworming treatment for over 800 kids, and then full medical care for nearly 700 adults and children. It was a long, but necessary day.

Words and photos don’t describe the place. You have to walk through it, and smell it. You have to have random Acholi children come and grab your hand, even though they don’t know you. You have to see a girl named Winnie, whose legs were severely bowed a few years ago and who basically dragged herself along rather than actually walking. After some surgeries Loving One by One provided, Winnie was playing jumprope today with other kids.

The place is horrible and beautiful at the same time. It’s horrible because it’s filled with thousands of people who have little to no chance of any better life. Those old enough to remember witnessed entire families slaughtered in front of them. They’ve now settled into an area of safety in Kampala, not so much because they’ve been welcomed but because they’ve been reluctantly accepted. Most people from southern Uganda don’t like people from northern Uganda; actually, hate is a more accurate word. Apparently the Acholi Tribe isn’t one of the cool tribes in Uganda. So they live there in the Acholi Quarter, next to sewers with diseases like malaria and typhoid running rampant, and there’s a chance most of them will live the rest of their lives that way.

Unless, developers come in and level most of the tiny homes to build whatever they’ve decided to build. That’s a good possibility. If that happens, most of the Acholi people will discover the one thing that’s actually worse than living in the Acholi Quarter – and that’s having no place to live at all.

I said it’s beautiful as well as horrible. The beautiful part is seeing the change in health as Loving One by One (and other organizations) have taken an interest in the Acholi Quarter. We’re here every six months, providing free medical care. In Uganda, that’s a huge deal. We’ve been able to provide education to some of the Acholi children. It’s a seemingly hopeless place, but somehow hope is coming alive here. We don’t know how long the neighborhood will be here, because at some point the land will likely be taken over by developers. But for now, it’s one of our neighborhoods and these are our friends, and we’re not leaving them.

Today, the Acholi Quarter was our last big project for this summer’s Loving One by One Team One (go Team One!!!). We have a few easier days ahead, and most of us are out of here and back to the U.S. on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Acholi Quarter was the perfect place to begin to wind down our time here – everything about it reminds me of  why I keep coming back to Uganda.

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