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Two Decades Later, War Victim Still Lives with Bomb Shrapnel :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Two Decades Later, War Victim Still Lives with Bomb Shrapnel

The single mother of four daughters says she is living in excruciating pain and requires Shillings 27 million for specialized surgery to remove the shrapnel and place an implant to support her leg and hip.
Joyce Aloyo, a bomb blast victim speaks to the press in Gulu City.
Joyce Aloyo 33, a resident of Kabedopong ward in Bardege Layibi Division in Gulu City sorbs uncontrollably on a Friday afternoon as she narrates her ordeal of a bomb blast that nearly ended her life. On May 12, 1998, the day had ended peacefully with no signs of trouble in sight as Aloyo and her four siblings after a long day of school and play took a nap in their parent’s grass-thatched hut at night.

Aloyo was in primary one at Paibona Primary school and expected to wake up the next morning as usual for school to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. That night, tragedy instead struck the minors after a powerful bomb hit their grass-thatched hut in Twon Lyec Village, Awach Sub-county, Gulu District.

The incident claimed the life of one girl while Aloyo who was seven years old at the time lost consciousness after sustaining severe injuries on her right leg. “I was told later by my parents that I woke up from a coma after one week. I barely remember what happened that night apart from a loud bang,” Aloyo told Uganda Radio Network in an interview.

She however recalled being told they had been caught up in the middle of a firefight that erupted between the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers. Aloyo is unsure whether the bomb was launched by the government forces or LRA rebels. According to Aloyo, the bomb blast shattered her right leg leaving her hospitalized at St Mary’s Hospital Lacor for almost a year undergoing various stages of medical treatment.

Although she was discharged from Hospital, Aloyo says the wounds didn’t heal properly, adding that the impact of the blast left her leg shorter while some of her toes had to be cut off. When she resumed studies, Aloyo says the pains kept increasing since the wound hadn’t healed, something that forced her to drop out of school while in Senior three at Gulu Central High School.

“I came back home and continued with my studies until I reached senior three but I kept struggling with the wound and the doctors told me to do daily dressing. This meant sometimes I couldn’t attend classes and I became annoyed and decided to drop out of school,” she said.

But dropping out of school didn’t help Aloyo, who at the time stayed with her poor grandmother as the pain kept growing. According to Aloyo, a scan conducted at St Mary’s Hospital Lacor later revealed the source of her persistent pain was a bomb shrapnel that was stuck in her right ankle. 

However, 24 years later, Aloyo says her efforts to finance an operation to remove the shrapnel from her ankle have proved futile. The single mother of four children says she is living in excruciating pain and requires Shillings 27 million for specialized surgery to remove the shrapnel and place an implant to support her right leg and hip.

“My worst days are when the weather is hot, I sometimes fail to walk because of the pain or become partially paralyzed. I am appealing to any well-wisher and President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to stand with me financially for this surgery to free me from the pain,” she says.

Aloyo says because she is unable to do productive work, all four daughters have been out of school for the last three years without studying. She is among the hundreds if not thousands of victims of the two-decade LRA war who are still struggling to have bullets and bomb shrapnel removed from their bodies.

George Oringa, the Secretary of the Explosive Ordinance Network for Survivors, an organization that brings together landmine survivors, says that many of their members are in dire need of relief and corrective surgeries.

He says whereas it’s hard to determine the exact number of survivors, they are working closely with over 800 landmine survivors in Omoro, Nwoya, Amuru, and Gulu districts whose normal lives were disrupted during the war.

“These people have a compromised body immunity because of the bomb particles that they are living with, it’s so easy for them to develop pressure and other diseases, and thus they need urgent help to inform of relief aid and specialized surgeries,” Oringa told Uganda Radio Network in an interview Wednesday.

Oringa however says the presence of unexploded ordinances littered in the rural communities in the Acholi Sub-region after the two-decade LRA war still poses danger to the lives of both adults.

“A big challenge left at the moment is unexploded ordinances that are buried in the region where either the LRA had their bases or exchanged gunfire with government forces. For the safety of the people after the war, these ordinances need to be removed,” he said.

In March last year, two children were killed after a bomb they were laying with exploded in Bul-kur B village in Omel Sub County, Gulu district. It’s believed thousands of active UXOs are still buried in the ground in different parts of the Acholi Sub-region where both the LRA and UPDF had their camps or had battles at the height of the war.

The LRA war in Northern Uganda that took two decades from 1986 to 2006 led by elusive leader Joseph Kony devastated many lives in the region and saw the displacement of more than 1.5 million people into displacement camps while tens of thousands of people were killed.