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And, yes, I DO take it personally: The hopelessness of the child war refugee in Uganda - "I cannot see another life for me"
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

The hopelessness of the child war refugee in Uganda - "I cannot see another life for me"


Stephen Bati, 10 years old, who lost his
mother in the quarry in January when she
was buried by a mud slide, breaks rocks
in the Acholi Quarters, a slum located
in Kireka, Kampala Uganda
Friday, Feb. 29, 2008.

(AP Photo/ Vanessa Vick)

Women and children sit in groups, crushing
rocks together with a small piece of metal
atop a piece of whittled wood just outside
Kampala, Uganda Saturday, May 17, 2008.
Most of the people working in this area
are urban refugees who have fled a 20-year
civil war in Northern Uganda, in search of
a better life in the capital.

(AP Photo/Glenna Gordon)

from the ap...
Stephen Batte works in a quarry under the blazing sun, chipping rocks into gravel with a homemade hammer. It's tiring, boring and dangerous.


"Life has always been hard here," he whispers, carefully positioning a sharp rock before striking it with well-practiced accuracy. "But since my mother died, things have been much harder."

His mother, the woman who taught him to smash rocks when he was a toddler, was killed here in a landslide in August.

His T-shirt torn and his feet bare, Stephen is one of hundreds of people who work in the quarry on the outskirts of Uganda's capital, Kampala. Their shabby figures sit hunched over their heaps of gravel. The chink of metal against stone bounces off the rock faces.

Most of the workers are refugees who fled a civil war in northern Uganda. Now they make 100 Uganda shillings, 6 U.S. cents, for every 5-gallon bucket that they fill with chipped rocks. Stephen works 12 hours a day to fill three buckets.

There's no safety code or protective clothing. The children's arms and legs are covered in scabs from flying stones. Stephen says a friend lost an eye.

the hopelessness of the situation is simply indescribable...
When Musa Ecweru, the minister of relief and disaster preparedness, visited the quarry, relief workers had to meet his car two miles from the site because his driver couldn't find it.

The normally talkative Ecweru seemed at a loss for words at what he saw, and unable to make firm commitments to help. He admitted that the government "may not have appreciated fully the magnitude" of the problem, and promised to bring it to the government's attention.

Then he gave a group of women and children with whom he spoke $30 and told them to divide it among themselves.

Two months after the minister's visit, Stephen's situation is unchanged.

"I wish I could be helped," he said, picking at a large scab on his knee, "but I cannot see another life for me."

on my daily runs back and forth to meetings and doing other errands, i can see a lot of this same hopelessness here in afghanistan... it's almost overwhelming...

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