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Uganda: UN to aid 2 million displaced by conflict

Uganda: UN to Step up Support for 2 Million Displaced by Conflict with Rebels

The United Nations is planning to increase its activities in northern Uganda in the coming year to help some 2 million Ugandans displaced by Africa’s longest running yet one of its least reported conflicts, a senior relief official said today.

“This is one of the longest, largest, and least addressed humanitarian crises in the world today,” the Special Advisor on Displacement to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Dennis McNamara declared of the fighting with the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

“It has uprooted as many people as the Bosnian war did 10 years ago, but gets only a fraction of the international attention,” he added. “All actors – the UN, the NGOs (non-government organizations), the Ugandan Government, and donor governments – need to do considerably more, and to increase their assistance if this long-neglected tragedy is to be overcome.”

Mr. McNamara has just spent a week in Uganda discussing the grave humanitarian crisis, visiting Kitgum in the north, where two NGO staff were killed in recent weeks by the LRA.

Nearly 2 million people have been displaced by the 19 year-old conflict, 1.7 million of whom live in over 200 squalid and overcrowded camps, relying largely on international assistance to survive. Estimates indicate that more than 1,000 people a week die from disease or violence, according to a July 2005 Ministry of Health/UN World Health Organization(WHO) mortality survey.

The UN is planning to further increase its international presence next year, especially through its main humanitarian organizations including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA), and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It will also increase its request for funding for humanitarian programmes to more than $200 million for 2006.

“But we need the Government of Uganda to do much more,” Mr McNamara said. “They must provide security for the agencies to work, safe access, and better assistance and protection to the displaced people. They also need to ensure safe freedom of movement for those who want to go home. The Government has the primary responsibility for the long-suffering Ugandans, and they need to do much more.”

Despite the lack of assistance and insecurity, some 400,000 displaced people in Teso and Lango have returned home, or are returning, to cultivate their fields before the next planting season in March. They urgently need more agricultural support.

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