Hunger and Determination in East Uganda

WAR and cattle raids have shattered the economy here, leaving people hungry, poor, but still determined. Ngora escaped much of the violence of earlier years in Uganda. The Museveni guerrillas were based close to Kampala, far from here. The town used to have electricity, telephones, and good road links to the outside. In the past few years, that has all gone, as some people from this eastern part of Uganda began to fight Museveni's rule.

Today, malnutrition and other health problems are on the rise, as farmers cultivate smaller plots by hoe, in the absence of cattle to pull plows. Students in this area, once proud of its educational record, are dropping out for lack of money for school expenses.

``We've gone backward,'' says one resident.

To help, the government waived school fees last year and this year. And it recently provided four small tractors. But there are hundreds of small farms in the immediate area alone.

Banks are reluctant to make loans to people here due to the insecurity. ``We need capital to hire a tractor, plow, clear the brush, get labor, seeds and pesticides,'' says another resident.

Yet, there is a spirit of survival.

The teachers' training college and several local schools continue, though school grades are declining due to the disruptions of war. Many schools in outlying villages have closed.

In a classroom here, some 75 students cram into place behind the old, wooden desks. They clap, at the teacher's request, when a student gives a correct answer in a math exercise.

At the local Roman Catholic church, the choir still fills the packed, tin-roofed building with harmony. A local student performance group still practices, hoping to go to regional competitions next year - if they can pay for transportation.

Vision Terudo, a Ugandan development organization working here, makes this recommendation to its supporters: ``Pray that God restores peace and stability.''

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