14 December 2011

Uganda: Gulu Street Beggars Get New Life

Gulu — Several beggars, largely the elderly, the disabled and orphans in Gulu that have been earning their living from the streets, business outlets and homesteads, finally can sigh with relief after a charitable organisation offered them resettlement packages to start a new life.

Their resettlement follows their demand early this year that they would welcome any move by either the government or NGOs to resettle them in their villages so that they could fend for themselves through decent means.

Last year, they gave authorities terms under which they would leave the streets. They said whoever wanted to get them back to the villages must find them an alternative source of income.

Ms Ajulietta Apio, 67, who has been resettled in her village of Guruguru in Amuru District, could not hide her joy, saying life has changed for her after getting her resettlement package that included a hut, goats and other household items. "It's not an easy thing moving from shop to shop, home to home asking for basic needs and money among other things from people, God has at last come to our rescue," said Ms Apio.

Ms Apio, who fled from her village in 2000 after the LRA rebels invaded her home and brutally murdered her family, said since the return process started, she has always been longing to return home but her inability to build a home and fend for herself from the village has been bogging down her wishes.

Ms Mary Alum, another beneficiary who was resettled last week in Bungatira Sub-county, said: "Begging is very a shaming, especially if people see that you are able-bodied and that you should be able do something to earn a living."

Street days

The beggars had designated Tuesdays and Fridays to beg from the town while they use the rest of the days to beg in the villages mainly for food items. Peko Rwot Pe Support Community Organisation, which supported the resettlement of the beggars with funding from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and AVSI, plans to resettle at least 130 beggars out of the over 200 in Gulu Municipality before end of next year.

Mr Robert Ongwec, the organisation's coordinator, said even though they have successfully resettled some beggars, the task ahead of them is still huge. "Most of these beggars are IDPs who fled their homes at the peak of the insurgency and due to financial constraints, most of them failed to go back to their original homes," said Mr Ongwec. He added that by resettling them, the number of street children could also reduce because most of their parents are beggars.

The district chairperson, Mr Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, said supporting the disadvantaged live a good life is a boost to the recovery of the region. Resettlement street beggars has not been left to only NGOs. Early this year, government laid out plans of resettle all Karimojong children and adults to their homeland.

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