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Crisis: 1.6 Million People Displaced In Uganda

UN Seeks Funding To Tackle Neglected Crisis Of 1.6 Million Displaced In Uganda

A senior United Nations humanitarian official warned today that without adequate funding the world body would not be able to meet the crisis festering in northern Uganda, where 1.6 million people have been displaced by the conflict with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

Expressing concern over "this neglected long term humanitarian crisis," the Director of the UN's Internal Displacement Division, Dennis McNamara, told reporters in Nairobi, Kenya, on his return from the area that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) there surpassed that in Darfur, western Sudan, which has received far more world attention.

"The United Nations needs to strengthen its role, its presence and its capacity but unless we are properly funded, we won't be there to do what we should do," Mr. McNamara said, adding that IDP camps in northern Uganda are "as desperate looking as in Darfur," where there are more than 1.2 million IDPs.

Roads and bridges are collapsing under food convoys, and the situation for women and children is particularly alarming, he said.

He indicated that the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) had already expanded its presence and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was dispatching a senior representative.

Mr. McNamara also noted that there were few non-governmental organization (NGO) partners in northern Uganda and that they were needed to work alongside the UN.

Despite some political progress, he also underlined that there was "no effective civilian management" of IDP camps and that only the military exerted control over the region.

"There is no functioning of the rule of law," he declared.

Only last week UNICEF said the continued kidnapping of youngsters by the LRA as soldiers and sex slaves remained a "cause for great distress." Up to 12,000 children are estimated to have been abducted by the group since June 2002 alone, and in April the plight of these child soldiers topped the list of "Ten Stories the World Should Know More About" compiled by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).

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