Lira is a small busy town located in Northern Uganda, about 5 hours’ drive away from Kampala the main VSO Uganda office, at the same time 2 hours’ drive from Gulu the location of the VSO Uganda northern field office. Lira has an estimated population of 403,100, 70 % of whom are Christian and the common places of worship are the churches (Catholic, Anglican & Pentecostal churches).
The weather is cool and rainy during the months of march-September hot and dry during the months of October-February. The rainfall in the district is bimodal with one peak during April-May and the other in August-October. The continental climate of the district is modified by the large swamp area surrounding the southern part of the district.
Lira is relatively flat terrain covered by grassland vegetation. Roads linking Lira and Pader, Otuke, Alebtong and Apac are murram and can be slippery in rainy season and fairly dusty in dry season. Lira to Dokolo is tarmac but Dokolo to Amolatar is equally murrum.
Lira has two large supermarkets (O.M & Go Global) and a number of smaller, but generally well stocked, supermarkets. The market is a good source of relatively cheap vegetable produce. Internet services are widely available and a few hotels/coffee shops have free wifi. Mobile phone networks work well in and around Lira but can occasionally be down or ‘play up’. Most things can be bought in Lira, for the same price or a bit dearer than can be found in Kampala, but the shops are known to have stock outs of different items from time to time. It is worth restocking on a few harder to buy items on visits to Kampala.
There are numerous local restaurants and bars and a few geared more towards the expert market. Lira has a swimming pool at Lira Integrated recreational centre, 2kms from the town centre on Juba road.
Lira has a bus park which provides travel to/from other northern towns and Kampala. The Gaga Bus is recommended for travel to Kampala.
There are number of banks in Lira; Baroda, Crane, Stanbic, Centenary, DFCU, Barclays and Bank of Africa.
Luo (Langi) is the main language spoken in the area. In some work settings it is not uncommon for more than one local language to be spoken in areas where the volunteer works. Volunteers should seek to learn basic phrases and greetings to interact with the community but the business and common language will be English.
The need for an interpreter in community setting will be negotiated with your partner organisation if it arises.
Lira is considered generally a safe area but volunteers should remain vigilant against opportunistic crimes and petty theft. It’s also advisable for Volunteer to avoid late night movement by themselves.
The most health risks for an expatriate are malaria and other health problems such as cough, typhoid and flu which out breaks are seasonal. The volunteer should take medical experts’ advice seriously about how to prevent malaria throughout the placement period.
VSO volunteers can receive health care from a medical clinic and hospital approved by VSO. These facilities have been used by volunteers in the past and we have received positive reports with regard to the quality of service provided. VSO recommended health center is the AAI in Kampala and the Gulu branch and specific clinics such as the Charis Clinic in Lira.
Any gender issues particular to this placement;
No major issues. However the culture in northern Uganda is patriarchal.
It is easy to walk around Lira, however for volunteers whose placement requires travel outside of the town motorbikes are essential as there is only a limited form of public transport. The volunteer should be comfortable riding a motorbike or be willing to learn.
Accommodation will be funded through the programme. Depending on preference a volunteer may share accommodation or not. The accommodation will have electricity, cold running water and full indoor plumbing(self contained). power cuts and water shortages are occasionally experienced in Lira. Volunteer is thus advised to have a lamp to handle power shortage and plastic 20ltr container to handle water shortage.
The Volunteer is encouraged to be flexible in a situation that he/she may be required to take up accommodation either within the Vocational Training Institute or nearer the Institute – this is perhaps most likely when visiting VTI’s outside of Lira if overnight stays are required.
For general information on Uganda and travel within the country the Bradt guide is recommended.
To read more about the conflict in Northern Uganda the following are recommended: The Wizard of the Nile, Mathew Green (http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Nile-Matthew-Green/dp/1846271290); Tall Grass – Carlos Rodriguez (http://www.africabookclub.com/?p=958); Aboke Girls, Els de Temmerman (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aboke-Girls-Children-Abducted-Northern/dp/9970022563