In the videos, they look resigned even when their voices, helpless as they are, sound joyous unbeknownst to their awaiting fate; death. Their faces are sun-scorched and pale and innocent. My God, they look innocent and young. So young you wonder, “Why them?” They wander about barefooted, jumping over thorns, running errands, running away from death. I keenly looked at one kid. His pale face stretches into a smile, but that’s all he has. A smile. He stares into the camera with his shy eyes and narrates his story. Listening to his ordeal, you feel your heart melt. You feel tears gather at the corner of your eyes and you fear to blink. I blinked.
The second video.
There is 13-year-old Naome from Ntoroko District. It’s been two weeks now since she suffered from the deadly malaria and she hasn’t had any form of medication. Why? Because her only hope is the nearest health centre which is 20 kilometres away. You wonder where her parents are; they are with her, knees on the ground in prayer. If they could help, they would. But they are so poor to buy medicine for their daughter, Naome.
They are so poor to buy her life.
Naome is not the only child in the jaws of death. There is 11-year-old Ivan from Gulu who dropped out of school at the age of 9. Instead of learning books, like the rest of the world, he spends his days burning charcoal and collecting firewood for his family. Even when he is staining himself with charcoal, his dream of becoming a teacher is still neat at the back of his head. He wants to be a teacher and rid the world of illiteracy that has crippled him and stained his young hands with charcoal.
There is 15-year-old Anita whose father married her off at the age of 14. At 15 years, privileged kids are about to complete their primary level, but not Anita. Anita is about to complete her pregnancy instead (she is 7 months pregnant). At 15, she has a husband and a home to build. There are many children in Uganda today who are playing Russian roulette with death. There are many Anitas, Ivans and Naomes seated in the waiting rooms of shattered dreams and walking in the corridors of failure. According to the United Nations, Uganda has a very young age with 60% under the age of 18. 19% are under 5 years. A big chunk of that percentage would later die of malaria and other curable endemics. In the budget, the money allocated for health reduced from 9.6% in 2003-2004. It later reduced to 8.6% and then further to 8% in 2014-2015. Every reduction breeds maternal, child and infant mortality.
Do these children deserve such suffering?
No, they don’t. They deserve a future, like the rest of us. They deserve to sit in school and attain education like their contemporaries. They deserve to live, to laugh, to play, to grow, to eat and to dream. The statistics of uneducated children look so unreal to be true. According to UBOS and ICF International 2012, just 5% of children attend pre-primary school in the West Nile Region. This is because even after braving a lengthy journey to school, teaching is still inadequate. Where is the Government in all this? The Government is busy with more important issues like scrapping off taxes from Member of Parliament’s monthly ‘peanuts’ they earn. The Government is busy purchasing arsenals and tankers and teargas canisters because it needs to protect its people. The irony is that it protects its people so that they can die in peace.
However, Save The Children, through its global #EveryLastChild campaign, wants every child to attain the right survival. They are pledging to reach every child in the remote areas of Uganda. Actually, it’s not Save The Children alone, you too can play a part in this cause. You can join the campaign and pledge to task the government to address the challenges facing children in the remote areas of Uganda; those forgotten souls of this country. They say that the future of this country is in the younger generation.
Stand up. Speak up. Save the children until every last child survives.