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Ugandan Government to Re-Plan Northern Camps After Fires

The Ugandan government is investigating several camps for people displaced by the war in the north, following accidental fires that took place over the weekend there.

Uganda's State Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Christine Amongin Aporu, told VOA Tuesday she is on her way to northern Uganda to visit five camps where weekend fires destroyed more than 5,000 huts. Thousands of people were left homeless by the fires. Media reports say three people were killed.

Ms. Aporu said people lighting cooking fires too close to the grass and wood huts in which they live was the main cause of the blazes, which spread rapidly because of the windy, dry conditions in the north.

The state minister said she and her office plan to make changes in the camps and make people aware of the dangers of lighting fires improperly.

"We are planning to re-plan the camps as we reconstruct them, making sure that there are very clear walkways and then firebreaks, and also to ask the internally displaced people to at least separate the areas of cooking from the huts which they stay in," she said.

United Nations' agencies and aid groups are on the scene to provide relief.

The spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Uganda, Juancarlos Carrera, describes how his agency assisted more than 1000 families in one of the camps following an assessment by the Ugandan Red Cross.

"The International Committee of the Red Cross provide(d) the items to be distributed, like we distribute[d] tarpaulins, soap, blankets, cooking pots, and jerrycans," he said.

The United Nations estimates that more than 1.5 million people have been forced out of their homes to avoid attacks by a rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). To avoid attacks, people have relocated to camps.

For the past 18 years, the LRA has randomly and indiscriminately attacked local populations, kidnapping more 20,000 children, and killing and maiming thousands.