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Children of Sudan Children who escape from rebel captivity are in poor shape they are usually in lice-ridden rags covered with sores scarred from beatings and bullet wounds According to World Visions Robby Muhumuza the children arrive at trauma counseling centers sick malnourished with low appetite They have guilt feelings are depressed and with low self-esteem They have swollen feet rough skin chest infections they tend to be aloof with little confidence in themselves or others They tend to lapse into absentmindedness as well as swift mood changesMany of the children--especially the girls who are routinely given to rebel leaders as wives--also have sexually transmitted diseases They arrive with gonorrhea syphilis or sores skin rash and complaints of abdominal pain and backache At World Vision in Gulu 70 to 80 percent of the children newly arriving at the center test positive for at least one sexually transmitted disease Some of the girls are pregnant while others who tested negative for pregnancy have stopped having their menstrual periods because of malnutrition and stress The trauma counseling centers do not test the children for HIV reasoning that after their experiences in the bush the children are not yet psychologically ready to be told that they may have contracted a fatal illness But with HIV infection rates of 25 percent in parts of Gulu and Kitgum it is overwhelmingly likely that many of the children--especially the girls--have become infectedCounselors and childrens advocates criticize the Uganda Peoples Defense Force for not providing escaped children with adequate medical care while the children are in UPDF control They dont always give them treatment right away says Richard Oneka a counselor Sometimes by the time they reach us theyve been with the UPDF for weeks without seeing a doctorThe Uganda Peoples Defense Force also sometimes brings recently escaped children to appear at public rallies to drum up popular support for the
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