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Resettling the Internally Displaced a Major Challenge for East Africa in the New Year


In Somalia, which has not had an effective central government in 16 years, the UN says an estimated 1.4 million people need emergency humanitarian relief. Of those, 400,000 are those who’ve been internally displaced by years of factional fighting.

Besida Tonwe is the head of the Central and East Africa bureau of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nairobi. She says, “Many people are so vulnerable that they need direct food assistance but others who are on the rebound will need seed and tools. The situation has been compounded by floods and earlier in the year drought, and resilience by the vulnerable has been stretched. So, we’re providing a two-pronged approach -- food assistance, food aid and seasonal tools so people can rebuild their lives.”

In Sudan, fighting between government forces and rebels in the western region of Darfur have left four million people in need of humanitarian aid. In the southern part of the country, where peace has been restored after years of conflict, about 600 thousand people are expected to return over the next year.

In Uganda, there are hopes that a 21-year conflict may be winding down. Last year, over 300 thousand people internally displaced by the conflict returned home. Over the next 12 months, more than four times as many now living in camps are expected to return. The country is also home to over 216,000 refugees, mostly from Sudan, Congo-Kinshasa, and Rwanda. Last year, over 21,000 returned home.

In these areas of conflict, those with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to illnesses like intestinal worms, malaria, respiratory tract infections and diarrhea.

Tonwe says, “We know that in the displaced communities, the tendency is for the large majority of refugees and internally displaced to be women and children. They are at risk because they’re weaker, in terms of fending for themselves in armed conflicts, and children—especially in northern Uganda --have been used in these conflicts and victimized. So, there’s lots of (humanitarian) work for those particular groups of vulnerable people."

The United Nations relief agencies are asking donors for over $1.2 billion in humanitarian aid to Sudan in 2007 – and nearly half of that for recovery and development. They’re also requesting $296 million in aid for Uganda, and $237 million dollars for Somalia.

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