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Sports support children’s reintegration into conflict-affected communities in Uganda

© UNICEF video/2008
Organized games and sport competitions are helping to transform schools in northern Uganda into effective rehabilitation centres.

By Gary Strieker

LIRA DISTRICT, Uganda, 29 September 2008 – During years of civil conflict in northern Uganda, schools were closed and entire communities were moved to safety in displacement camps. Now, with a fragile peace returning to Lira District, families are going back to their homes and schools are reopening.

But many returning children have been deeply affected by the conflict. Some of them were abducted by insurgents and forced to fight. Helping them resume a normal childhood is an exceedingly difficult task.

“These children have had their lives torn apart,” said Edwin Odur-Luru, a field worker for the international non-governmental organization War Child. “The kind of help they need at the moment is psycho-social support to help them reintegrate into the community and into their family lives.”

A transformation in schools

Samuel Opido, 14, spent four years in a displacement camp with 10 brothers and sisters. Sitting at his desk in a classroom at Angolocom Primary School, he said many bad things happened in the camp – fires, diseases, people dying and other incidents he can’t even talk about.

© UNICEF video/2008
Samuel Opido, 14, spent four years in a Ugandan displacement camp. Sport and games have helped him make new friends and put the past behind him.

But now, for Samuel and thousands of other students in the district, organized games and competitions are helping to transform their schools into effective centres for rehabilitating communities, encouraging non-violent ways to resolve disputes and forging strong bonds between parents and schools.

“The sport competitions help the child to forget about the past, and help all of us in the community to focus on the present and the future,” said Alex Ochien, a parent of two students at the Angolocom school.

Looking to the future

In a project supported by UNICEF, sports such as football, basketball and volleyball are being promoted among 50 schools in Lira District, as part of an effort to get children to go back to classes and rebuild their lives.

Samuel said sports and games have brought him together with new friends and opened his mind to think positive thoughts, stay out of trouble and do well in school.

In Lira District, children and their parents are determined to leave their unhappy past behind, assisted by the simple pleasures of sport.




UNICEF’s Gary Strieker reports on the use of sport programmes to help schoolchildren recover from conflict.
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