Luo is the language most commonly spoken in Northern Uganda. Luo is spoken by the two primary ethnic groups in this region of the country, the Acholi and Langi. Luo is also a term that refers to several ethnically and linguistically related ethnic groups that inhabit the area from Ethiopia through northern Uganda and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda Northern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholic, Protestant

The Weather

  • Homes in the rural northern region are typically small, round huts with mud walls, thatched roofs and dirt floors. Uganda Family Outside Small Round Hut
  • These boys, in their colorful school uniforms, can look forward to a brighter future, thanks to the love, prayers and support of sponsors like you. Uganda Boys in Yellow Uniforms
  • Children in the north commonly work long hours at menial, sometimes dangerous, jobs instead of going to school. Uganda Boy Working with Rocks
  • This Compassion-sponsored child can study God's Word in her very own Bible. Uganda Girl Reading the Bible Aloud
  • These children are happy to receive a nutritious meal at their Compassion-assisted child development center. Uganda Children Lined Up For A Snack
  • More than 17 million children in Uganda are younger than 15. Most live in poverty. Uganda Girl Smiling Behind Curtain

Overview: Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda is a flat lowland area bordering Sudan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The primary ethnic groups in this region are the Acholi and Langi people. Both of these groups speak Luo.

Traditionally, the Acholi and Langi are cattle herders. But the war in the northern districts against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group along with rampant cattle theft have caused many Acholi and Langi families to turn to farming to survive.

In the northern districts, more than 85 percent of the 6.6 million people practice Christianity. The remaining 15 percent practice Islam or traditional religions.

Before the peace process began with the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2006, northern Uganda was an especially dangerous place for children. Fearful of kidnapping by the rebels, as many as 25,000 children walked every afternoon from their villages into larger towns. There they would spend the night in shelters before making the trek back home the next morning. These children were known as “night commuters.”

Today, most of the shelters have been closed and children are feeling safer. However, the fear that the group will return still haunts many children and families.


Culture Corner

Uganda Culture


Try playing this game, which is popular among children in Uganda.

  • Have participants sit in a line on the ground with their legs extended in front of them.
  • Choose one child to be the leader.
  • While the children sing a short song, the leader walks around and taps each child’s legs. In Uganda, they sing the “Kakopi” song.
  • Whichever leg the leader is touching when the song ends must be tucked back behind the child.
  • When both legs are tucked back, that child is “out.”
  • The last child to still have a leg extended is the winner. In Uganda, that child claims a special title.


Here are some phrases in Swahili that you can use when writing to your sponsored child in northern Uganda:

Thank you.

Obanga mi-gum.
God bless you.

I love you.


Life in Northern Uganda

The northern region of Uganda is the country’s poorest. With South Sudan to the north, Kenya to the east, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, this region is emerging from a conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army, which wreaked havoc on northern families for 20 years.

The region’s population is 5.2 million, the majority of whom are Roman Catholics. The language most commonly spoken is Luo, and the region is known for its beautiful cultural dances.

Most families depend on subsistence farming, growing such basic grains as millet and corn to meet their nutritional needs. The rainy seasons are from March to May and September to November. The rest of the year is extremely hot and dry, and during these arid months, famine can occur.

Children at Home

The mud huts of rural northern Uganda have a radius of only seven or eight feet and are found in clusters. Usually, the head of the family shares one hut with his wife and one or two of the youngest children. The other children occupy another hut, adjacent to that of the parents. Other huts nearby are homes of aunts, uncles, grandparents and other members of the extended family.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Uganda

Formed in 1987, the cult-like Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) terrorized people in northern Uganda for nearly two decades. The group’s violence left more than 1.6 million people homeless. Tens of thousands of people were killed or kidnapped, and 20,000 children were forced to become child soldiers or sex slaves.

Although a tentative ceasefire agreement was reached with the Lord’s Resistance Army, people in this region still suffer from conflict. As many as 150,000 children have lost one or both parents. Also, many of the region’s families are starting from scratch, struggling to rebuild their lives.

Famine and crime are widespread. And recent surveys show that this region has the highest rate of new HIV infections in all Uganda. Another serious concern is the high rate of unemployment. More than 60 percent of adults in the north are unemployed, and their families suffer from extreme poverty.

Local Needs and Challenges

Children in the north still suffer the devastating effects of the long conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army. Many were kidnapped and sexually exploited or forced to bear arms, participating in killings and other atrocities. Children in this region commonly suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, as do their caregivers. Children born to teenage mothers -- very common in this region -- are the most affected. Also, many orphans and vulnerable children are living on their own. Often, they resort to child labor, prostitution, early marriage, or other detrimental options just to survive.


Schools and Education Education in Uganda

The school year in Uganda has three terms: February through April, the end of May through mid-August, and early September to late November. Students typically attend school about 250 days each year. Among Uganda’s population, only 66 percent of those over age 15 are able to read or write. Among women, fewer than 58 percent are literate.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

In northern Uganda, Compassion centers provide children the help and learning opportunities they need to reach their potential in Christ. Along with nutritious meals for proper physical development, they also receive medical assistance and hygiene training to stay healthy. Tutoring helps to make up for any school deficiencies, and most important, they learn about the love of their heavenly Father and are introduced to salvation in Jesus Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion’s mission to release children from poverty is carried out by local churches. Our church partners are in the heart of the communities we want to reach. They understand the challenges local children face, and they reach out to them regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religious belief.

Recently in Uganda, when a Compassion-assisted child’s family was presented a gift from his sponsor, his Muslim caregiver said, “If this is what it means to be Christian, then let me accept Jesus Christ.” He was overwhelmed not only by the sponsor’s generosity but also by the fact that in a country where corruption is commonplace, the church presented him the entire amount that was sent.

How Compassion Works in Uganda Compassion in Uganda

Compassion’s work in Uganda began in 1980. Currently, more than 77,000 children participate in 300 child development centers.

Compassion partners with local churches, helping them provide Ugandan children with a long-term program of physical, educational, social and spiritual development. Through this partnership between Compassion and local churches, children in need have the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and fulfill their potential in Christ.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

Partnership Facilitators are an important link between Compassion and the individual church partners that implement our program. In Uganda, each Partnership Facilitator, or PF, oversees 12 local churches that operate Compassion-assisted child development centers.

PFs play a critical role in empowering local church partners to be the best they can be at meeting the needs of their communities’ children. Ugandans themselves, PFs understand the local reality of the churches they serve and are best able to represent the churches’ needs and challenges to the national Compassion office.

Uganda’s PFs demonstrate a selfless commitment to their demanding jobs. They have a passion for children and never pass up an opportunity to speak out on their behalf.


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for continued peace in northern Uganda and a permanent resolution to the LRA conflict.
  • Pray that God will continue to restore the people in this war-devastated region emotionally and psychologically, especially the children.
  • Pray for abundant harvests for families who depend on subsistence farming.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who need steady employment.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.