Oxfam gives survivors of war in Uganda a voice through the internet

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 17 Jun 2008

Australians can now talk directly to some of the millions of people who have been displaced by civil war and live in camps for internally displaced people in Uganda, thanks to a new blogging website between the two countries, launched today by Oxfam Australia.
The hookup enables people in Australia and in Uganda’s camps to have a conversation by blogging on a new website made possible by an IT system set up in seven camps by local groups and international NGOs.
Oxfam Policy Director James Ensor said the website and blog would help open up the world to internally displace people (IDPs) living in isolated camps in northern Uganda.
“Ugandan’s can get online and ask questions of Australians and teach Australians about life in the camps with first hand accounts,” Mr Ensor said.
Because of a lack of electricity in the camps, the IT system has been set up by a group of NGOs and community organisations using solar powered computers that have no moving parts, require little maintenance and are resilient to dusty environments.
The project was the idea of Father Joe Okumu, a Ugandan priest and long-time human rights activist who lives and works in Gulu, in northern Uganda.
Father Okumu said the conditions in IDP camps in Uganda were not only difficult in terms of having enough food and shelter, but he said people in the camps were also isolated and lonely.
He said access to modern communications in the camp was of enormous benefit to refugees living there.
“We’ve been able to get people closer to each other and closer to their government. I’m seeing Ugandans more united. This technology is bringing people together,” Father Okumu said.
“In a short time this has got people closer together and certainly the people are going to learn a lot.”
The Ugandan/Australian blogs, launched this morning and already attracting participants, also give Australians an opportunity to share stories about their lives with Ugandans.
Mr Ensor said Oxfam was working in a number of areas in Northern Ugandan IDP camps providing water and sanitation facilities, health training, mosquito nets and basic hygiene equipment. Oxfam also initiates projects that allow people to provide for themselves and supports partners that provide counselling to abducted children, who are returning to their communities.


To arrange an interview with James Ensor or for more information call Melany Markham on
+61 407 515 559

Notes to editors:
15 – 21 June 2008 is National Refugee Week. This Friday, 20 June (World Refugee Day), A Just Australia and Oxfam Australia are launching a report, Playing God with Sanctuary – a study of Australia’s approach to complementary protection obligations beyond the Refugee Convention. There are 1.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Northern Uganda. Today 34 million people around the world have been displaced by war and conflict. This number has increased three times since the 1970s.