Children in Sudan

Children of Sudan
Children who escape from rebel captivity are in poor shape: they are usually in lice-ridden rags, covered with sores, scarred from beatings and bullet wounds. According to World Vision’s Robby Muhumuza, the children arrive at trauma counseling centers “sick, malnourished, with low appetite. They have guilt feelings, are depressed and with low self-esteem . . . . They have swollen feet, rough skin, chest infections . . . they tend to be aloof . . . with little confidence in themselves or others. They tend to lapse into absentmindedness as well as swift mood changes.”Many of the children–especially the girls, who are routinely given to rebel leaders as “wives”–also have sexually transmitted diseases: “They arrive with gonorrhea, syphilis or sores, skin rash and complaints of abdominal pain and backache.”At World Vision in Gulu, 70 to 80 percent of the children newly arriving at the center test positive for at least one sexually transmitted disease. Some of the girls are pregnant, while others, who tested negative for pregnancy, have stopped having their menstrual periods because of malnutrition and stress. The trauma counseling centers do not test the children for HIV, reasoning that after their experiences in the bush, the children are not yet psychologically ready to be told that they may have contracted a fatal illness. But with HIV infection rates of 25 percent in parts of Gulu and Kitgum, it is overwhelmingly likely that many of the children–especially the girls–have become infected.Counselors and children’s advocates criticize the Uganda People’s Defense Force for not providing escaped children with adequate medical care while the children are in UPDF control. “They don’t always give them treatment right away,” says Richard Oneka, a counselor. “Sometimes by the time they reach us, they’ve been with the UPDF for weeks without seeing a doctor.”The Uganda People’s Defense Force also …

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