The plight of the Karimojong

By August 18, 2011

Uganda (MNN) — Uganda's climate changes have led to the ostracizing of a people group that's been in the region for ages.

The Karimojong have been cattle herders for centuries, most recently taking care of their livestock in northwest Uganda. The Karimojong use cattle for every need, from diet to dowry.

In the past several years, however, the Karimojong have been forced to explore a new way of life in the face of devastating weather.

"Thousands of them in recent years have left their homeland–the pastures in Northwest Uganda–because first there was a prolonged drought, which made it really impossible for the land to support the people and their cattle," explains Lorella Rouster of Every Child Ministries.

Ironically, for the last two weeks, the issue hasn't been drought, but torrential rainfal, which has washed out roads and bridges, making it impossible for people to get into the Karimojong's region.

Slowly, the Karimojong are being forced to leave their physical homes as well as their way of life.

"They've been fiercely proud of their traditional way of life in recent years, but they have faced this choice of heading for the city or facing starvation in their homeland area in the north," adds Rouster.

But the Karimojong have only experienced strife for sacrificing their traditions. City life has been difficult in Kampala, where the group is highly ostracized.

The Karimojong aren't lazy, but they're uneducated, keeping them from acquiring good work. To make money, many Karimojong scavenge for scrap metals and plastics to create small items like rat traps and meat roasters.

Despite their hard work, the profit margin is abysmal. Many Karimojong are forced to beg on the streets. Even this desperate and already humiliating state of begging is only met with disgust by others in the city though, and the government has warned people not to give to them.

The incredible poverty that the Karimojong face makes housing difficult to afford. Many live on the streets, and for those who don't, prospects aren't much better. "The living conditions are really deplorable, and I would describe them as inhuman," says Rouster. "People are crowded together so that 10 or more families are forced to share one small room."

Many of those who are fortunate to have a roof–regardless of how many crowd beneath it–are being pushed out of their homes due to increasing building projects throughout Kampala.

It would seem that this people group is completely alone, despised and forgotten. But ECM is doing all they can to reach out to this hurting people.

Over the past year, ECM has begun to sponsor children from one large Karimojong group in two major slum areas, allowing the kids to go to boarding schools to get an education. The kids are doing well, but when they return to their parents for the holidays, they find many of them without homes.

As the ministry works with local Karimojong to help them with basic needs, they are able to share the Gospel as well. Although many are stuck to their traditional religion, several others, understanding well the idea of sacrifice, have come to Christ with open arms.

ECM would like to help in greater ways, including through a ministry center that would offer vocational training, spiritual nourishment, and possibly a place for kids to stay during the holidays. To build such a center would cost $55,000.

If you would like to help ECM give the Karimojong back their dignity and provide them with new hope in a risen King, visit

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