The Kisoro District, home of Christian Efforts Against Poverty Uganda, has the highest concentrations of poverty stricken families in Uganda. Families in the area must grow their own food to survive. AIDS/HIV infected families outnumber the families not affected by the disease. Sanitation issues lead to regular cases of typhoid and malaria. Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world mask the struggle for survival that happens here on a daily basis.
Daily life gets increasingly more difficult as inhabitants live greater distances from Kisoro town. The outlying villages suffer some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the world. Often, families must survive by digging in the fields of others for little pay. But with no education or trade skills, few other options are available to those who do not have enough land to farm for themselves.
While the soil in the area is very fertile, the rural areas around Kisoro have one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. Families often live entirely on diets of potatoes and motoke (a paste made by smashing green bananas.)
Because of these factors, most families live by bare necessity, with luxuries such as education and medical care being simply unattainable.
Spirituality in the area is scattered. Catholic and Anglican churches are many, while Baptist and Pentecostal churches represent the major protestant presence. There are four Islamic mosques, in the district. Pagan spiritualism, witch doctors, and religions that promote polygamy, also have a presence in the area.
A major source of economy for the area is tourism, capitalizing on the proximity to the protected gorilla reserves in the area, as well as a reasonably close location to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Many of the businesses and shops in Kisoro town rely on outside money from visitors generated by the tourists coming into the area to experience the game hikes, game drives, and mountain climbing to be done in Kisoro and the surrounding areas.
Schools in the area vary widely, with some schools providing an excellent opportunity for motivated students to pass national exams, thereby being offered the opportunity to continue attending higher levels of education. Others, however, are simply too poor to afford books for teachers or an education syllabus, leaving the teachers with no reasonable way to prepare their students for the national exams. While the top scorers in each district are offered governmental supplements to help them to pay for higher levels of education, the majority of children in Kisoro will never attend higher than primary level education.
Being positioned in a corner of Uganda, next to Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo, Kisoro is also affected by any civil unrest in the neighboring areas, although Rwanda has been fairly stable since the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.
With a backdrop of stunning scenery, Kisoro’s beauty masks a harsh reality of poverty, malnutrition, and young mortality rate.