The mango tree in Amuru
Assignment by WHO to make a documentary film on health issues in North Uganda.
I’m a TV journalist. I went to some place in Northern Uganda to do a certain story about the emerging health challenges for the returnees while I was working for WHO. These people had the idea to go and look at health units and see how dilapidated they are. But once there I met some of the people who had been in the [refugee] camps, returning to their former homes. I met somebody who had been in the camp for the last 22 years of the war, in a district called Amoro.
“Asneri” was above seventy year old, living with a wife who is crippled. During the course of the war she fell on a log while she was running as the rebels [Lords Resistance Army (LRA)] came to attack their camp, and got one of her limbs dislocated. She never got to hospital because by then hospitals were not nearby, and if anything you could not access them. So this lady did not get a chance to repair her fracture and she’s a cripple now and crawls.
Now this family has left the main displaced people’s camp after 23 years to return home to literally start life from scratch. These people returned to their former home, but what you could see, literally, is they are just beginning life, you know, somebody who is about 80, but beginning life. I got in the place, their former home; the only thing telling you that this place used to be somebody’s home was just a mango tree; you could tell by its age that this tree has been here for some time. For the rest, these people are sleeping out, they have no house and sleeping is done at a bonfire as guarding is done in turns.
This elderly guy had about seven children, but only one or two are still alive. They are guarding a grandchild who has epilepsy. I decided to hire a vehicle and go back to this family and stayed there up to past midnight, up to about one, because I wanted to get the feel of these people, how they survive in the night, and get a few clips here and there. I incorporated this aspect into the health issues that the WHO guys were looking for, they felt my piece was good and they took it on. That was the most interesting bit of it, that you are assigned to do something different, but then you find something in the field that strikes you, and you end up selling it to the people who have contracted you to do something different, you incorporate it into the work and they appreciate it. This was basically a side-dish to me, I wanted to use it as an entry point into this kind of war, from that approach on that family, but I ended up changing the WHO’s guys point of view.
It was very meaningful to me because I found people who have suffered and you can’t do much to change their lives, but to put their story across, so that maybe the people in authority or those who have the might or the capacity to help, can help them.I know later on the WHO made a follow-up, and I’m sure they have helped that man, at least to a certain level. I’m also intending to go back myself because I want to do something different about him, to prepare his story in a more compelling way, in the form of a movie. I want to pitch camp there, and look at them from dawn to dusk.
I want to document their plight in a film to raise funds to build them a house. I have talked to some Maisha alumni who have expressed willingness to support this cause and we shall get there, not for money, purely free.So many people have talked about the Northern Ugandan war and people returning, and they focus in that they now that they go back home, it’s safe. But apart from the security aspect, how are the people who are in their late years going to survive? Because they are beginning life afresh. So I want to bring that out as a salient issue that needs to be looked at, at different fora for decision making.