Saturday, April 12, 2008

When your mom used to tell you "There are starving children in Africa"...

Dear god some people seriously suffer in life. I drove out to Magwi Center today, to go and assess some health facilities. I mean, where I am in Nimule is fairly isolated. But Magwi... middle of NOWHERE.

I was on the road for nine hours today, though road is a slight exaggeration. Perhaps track/river would be a better description. I have a huge knot on my head from getting thrown around the truck, we got stuck about 10 times and it was raining. All of which was making me feel pretty sorry for myself.

Until we started coming across the settlements. Repatriation is just starting in this area because these Ugandan rebels, the LRA, were based around here until about a year ago, which meant the Sudanese refugees weren't going to come back just to have their villages attacked by some cracked out child soldier. The LRA have now, apparently, moved to Congo, so they've been cleared to return. The UN refugee agency is running one, two even three convoys a day, huge white trucks full of people and iron sheets and goats running down these horrible roads, dropping people off in a clearing where their village used to be.

Now, imagine, for a second you are me. You're in the Landcruiser, you've been on the road for about four hours, nothing but very beautiful, very empty green scrubby hills on either side. It is pouring down rain, the road is basically a rushing river full of hidden potholes. Suddenly there is a long grove of tall thin trees. In the trees, on either side of the road, are little thatch domes with white plastic on top, basically floating in a sea of mud. Outside, in the cold pouring rain, are people hoeing the ground, moving muddy bricks or just standing there, staring at you as the water drips off them. They don't have anywhere to go, inside the huts is muddy, smokey and too short to stand in. This goes on for about ten minutes, miserable, wet, bewildered people on either side of the road who have just landed up in a damp, isolated country they haven't seen for 10 or 20 years, trying to figure out how to survive.

It puts the whole being uncomfortable in a car thing in a bit of perspective.

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