African Youth Initiative Network
AYINET - Uganda
When Florence (not her real name), 53, saw the rebel approach, she shouted in order to make her 12-year old granddaughters to run away. As punishment for this action, the rebel stabbed her eye with a bayonet.
“They hit my eye and stabbed it twice. They broke my nose. I had a permanent headache, but every time I went to the nearby hospital, all they did was to advise me to travel to National Referral Hospital Mulago, which is in Kampala.
I sold my land in order to get treatment, but all the doctors did was an x-ray. That used up all my money.”
For over seven years, Florence lived with a swollen eye. She shared:
“My eye regularly swelled and discharged. But I couldn’t do anything. I had nothing left to sell to get treatment. I felt sick because of my head. I had headaches that nobody could even describe. I couldn’t dig, I couldn’t even carry my drinking water.”
“In October 2011, I met AYINET. They came to my home together with the area Local Council Leader. They said that they were working with the United Nations and that they treated people who suffered from war injuries.
I told them I had no money and, also, that I couldn’t borrow it anywhere. They said it was all for free, that the UN has given them some money and that they would pay for my medical expenses and even transport and food.
I accepted and I received treatment. You can see the difference between then and now for yourself. I have been fully treated.”
“My life is new! It delayed to come but I eventually received the healing I needed for so long. All I can say is: ‘thank you, my children, keep working with that spirit.’ I am raising chicken now… come visit me during ohuru (independence) and I will cook for you. We shall celebrate my freedom from pain.”
Here is how an AYINET counselor remembers his encounter with Florence: “When we visited Florence in 2012, we found her in her garden. She told us that her head pained and she couldn’t shake it. That prevented her from digging, cutting grasses, rebuilding her house. After she received the surgery, she said: ‘Look, I am now able to dig, cut grasses and my house is new as well. The healing came late – but it came.’”
We Need More Happy Endings
Florence’s case was challenging as it required surgery of a very delicate body part. Doctors said that they had to muster courage to not refer her to Nairobi and operate on her in Lira in Northern Uganda.
Florence’s story is a story of success – there are many people we have been unable of help. Victims of war live with retained bullets in all parts of bodies; when the bullets are in their head, the required treatment is very complicated. It is very expensive, it requires multiple surgeries and a long recovery time.
From Individual Health to Community Healing
Florence is rebuilding her own life now. All she needed to be able to do that was a life that was free from physical pain and this is where AYINET has been able to step in and help. Florence often says that she is now finally a ‘productive’ member of society again.
Without productivity, development is not possible. And productivity is not possible without physical and mental health, which are human rights!
Health is, of course, important in its own right; yet, at the same time it is also a tool that contributes to the rebuilding of individuals, their families, their communities and societies at large.
Beyond that, the absence of pain enables mental healing, forgiveness and, thereby, facilitates peace.
For these reasons, AYINET works to #HealTheVictims!
© African Youth Initiative Network - Uganda 2017