Since the pandemic began, alcohol abuse in the US and UK has risen dramatically. Several recent surveys show one in five Americans are consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol. The UK mirrors these findings, with an increased rate of alcohol-related deaths. Both countries are also acknowledging upticks in domestic violence.
Now, imagine facing the equivalent of pandemic lockdown for twenty years. That is what the population of northern Uganda endured when a civil war forced them into squalid camps. When I visited them just as the conflict was ending, I met farmers who had been away from their fields for two decades. They were frustrated they had been unable to hand on their agricultural skills and traditions to the next generation.
It’s like a prison here, a man called Henry told me. I used to live 100 meters from the nearest house. Now I am only two meters away.
Some resourceful souls in the camps started distilling potent alcohol and were soon doing a roaring business among men who were bored and felt hopeless about the future. With alcohol abuse came a host of social problems: high levels of domestic violence, rape and early pregnancy. These issues were compounded by the post-traumatic stress experienced by many thousands of people in Northern Uganda who witnessed atrocities during the conflict, or who were abducted and enslaved by the militia.
Although the violence is over and people have tried to resume normal life, the curse of alcohol abuse has lasting effects on an already poor population. The situation becomes even worse at harvest time when men take the family’s harvest to sell at a low price in order to buy alcohol.
What Is Network For Africa Doing About This?
Working with our excellent local partners, we have:
- trained teams of survivors to offer regular counselling to thousands of people affected by post-traumatic stress;
- trained local leaders to recognize mental illness in their communities, encouraging people to join our group and individual counselling sessions or to seek professional help in extreme cases;
- supported local medical facilities as they deal with mental health issues, as well as counselling people diagnosed with HIV or epilepsy;
- established dozens of self-help groups where people discuss their problems, support each other as they tackle their issues, plan economic initiatives to generate income, and form village savings and loans schemes together to help small business start-ups.
Thank you for supporting us as we continue our work in Northern Uganda, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE