It’s hard to imagine the impact that two decades of war has had on the people of northern Uganda. The Lord’s Resistance Army unleashed a reign of terror during which thousands were killed, millions were displaced and tens of thousands of children were abducted and forced to be soldiers, porters and sex slaves.
The legacy has been paralysing trauma. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, suicide, alcoholism — they’re all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Add to the mix the stigma and shame that trauma sufferers feel, combined with living in isolated rural villages with little outside communication, and the outlook is gloomy indeed.
But radio can be used to reduce depression and loneliness. Sometimes called the ‘Internet of Africa’, radio is often the only means of keeping in touch with the outside world and provides people with an opportunity to share their problems. This is why our counsellors in Patongo, northern Uganda are reaching out to more trauma sufferers in isolated communities.
The first of their radio shows aired on 15 February, and the second on 15 March. The counsellors introduced their work, and talked about trauma and the ways in which they can help. The response showed that the people of Patongo are not alone in their trauma. Calls came not only from Patongo, but from as far afield as Pader and Kitgum (50 to 60 miles away). One woman, from an area near our base in Patongo, called in about sexual violence, its prevalence, and the need for the counsellors’ services in her area. Another listener called to say that his whole village is traumatised and could our counsellors help.
In the next show, our counsellors will speak about suicide, which is on the rise. A police spokesperson in northern Uganda has attributed the rise in suicide to extreme poverty and alcoholism, typical consequences of trauma.
Our counsellors already address these issues in their daily work, but now through the radio broadcasts, people in surrounding regions can access their support too.