Persistent Famine in Karamoja, Uganda: The Story of Two Vultures


The plight of the suffering people of Karamoja.

In the early 1990’s, there was a widely circulated photo of a vulture lurking on the ground near a starving child waiting for the little girl to die and feast on her corpse. That photo was taken during the 1993/94 famine in Sudan, by Kevin Carter, a South African photojournalist, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for this ‘amazing shot’. However, as Kevin Carter was savoring his feat and being celebrated on major news channels and networks worldwide at the time for such  ‘exceptional photographic skills’, he lived just for a few months to enjoy his supposed achievement and fame, as he later got depressed and took his own life!

Kevin Carter’s depression started, when during one of such interviews (a phone-in program), someone called in and asked him what happened to the little girl. He simply had this to say “I didn’t wait to find out after this shot, as I had a flight to catch….” Then the caller said to him, “I put it to you that there were two vultures on that day, one had a camera”. Thus his constant thought of that statement, later led to depression and he ultimately committed suicide at the age of 33. This is the suicide note he left behind at the time of his death.

I’m really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist. …depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners … I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky”.

 Kevin Carter could have still been alive today and even much more famous, if he had just picked that little girl up and taken her to the United Nations Feeding Center, where the little girl was attempting to reach or at least take her to somewhere safe.

Today, regrettably this is what is happening all around the world. The world celebrates stupidity and inhumane acts, to the detriment of others. Kevin Carter should have taken the little hungry girl, yet he didn’t. Here is the inhuman posture, “He (Kevin Carter) had all the time to take his shot, but he had no time to save the little girl’s life”

Ironically, we must credibly understand the purpose and stance of life, which is to also touch lives and uplift those on the margins of our societies, the elderly, the hungry, the children, downtrodden and the sick. Whatever our ideologies, values and missions are, let humanity come first, before we stand to gain out of the situation our own aspirations.  In all we do, let’s think of those suffering, sick, hungry and disadvantages, and how we can lend a helping hand and wipe away tears. Hence, when we seek knowledge, wealth, fame, skills or even positions, let’s think of how we can use it to benefit those suffering in the world at large. ‘Psalms 34:18; the Lord is near to the brokenhearted’

Today, there are many catastrophic events unfolding especially corruption, famine, hunger, and insecurity in the Karamoja region, in North Eastern Uganda and other parts of the world. Young children with no future or hope of education look so shuttered in their family clusters (Manyatas) with their helpless parents and grandparents, a mere shadow of them as you pass by visiting  tells a story of nostalgic and immense pain, it’s a sight that cuts deep into the heart of those who show mercy and pity. Let’s weave the needs of suffering humanity into the fabric of our and our family’s daily life. Jesus’ heart is moved with pity for them who suffer catastrophes like famine, hunger, neglect because they are often troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepard. Human indifference has caused great harm to those in need, and worse, the indifference of Christians towards their neighbor.

In my early years in Karamoja I was staying with the late Fr Len Wiedymar MHM while he was constructing the St Daniel Comboni Primary School. He engaged us, the first cohort of pupils at the time, in a tree planting project around the school and the bishop’s residence. It was quite a breathtaking moment when the trees grew, I realized Fr Len Wiedymar MHM was teaching us the spirit of selflessness. He once told me while watering that “you must plant trees under which shade you don’t plan to sit”. Lately, I have been pondering the words of this great missionary, and for his unwavering love for the people of Karamoja, but also my mind is triggered by the lessons I draw from the story of Kevin Carter.

 I want to appeal to anyone of good will and heart through my parish to lend me a helping hand to undergo a short training on fighting famine, deforestation, pollution, in order to fight drought in Karamoja, Kotido diocese. My plan is to start a voluntary campaign through training young school-going children on restoring and preserving of native trees species and to start a mass tree planting campaign in the region especially in schools aimed at enhancing food security, ecosystem restoration, and climate change mitigation.

Carter was tormented by guilt for not saving the life of the little girl, but the little girl died very depressed due the lack of even mere vegetation to survive on to be able to reach the UN food center. Many of such stories are unfolding in our societies as we look on, like Albert Einstein’s once famously said: “the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch and do nothing” I believe I can be of great impact in fighting and dedicating my life to this life-long goal of making Karamoja green again.

Often, my mind is disturbed when I see the United Nations coming in to support the people with food during drought, until when shall we continue to go on like this? I feel these people need formal education, water, and training in good farming practices, and how to preserve and sustain their vegetation, livelihood, environment, and families, with very little and (or) minimal resources at their disposal. The teaching of Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato si” is incontrovertibly essential especially through this paradigm shift in the ecosystem brought about by global warming.




Similar Posts