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Safer Location For Sudanese Refugees in Uganda - 2002-08-13


The United Nations Refugee Agency has completed the transfer of more than 20-thousand Sudanese refugees to a safer site in northern Uganda. But the U-N-H-C-R and other aid agencies say people in northern Uganda live in fear of more attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

The U-N Refugee Agency says the transfer of more than 20-thousand Sudanese refugees from the northern Uganda town of Lira to a safer location was completed in a record four days. The refugees were moved to Kiryondongo, about 100 kilometers southwest of Lira.

The refugees had fled to Lira after their camp, Acholi-Pii was attacked August 5th by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. At least 55 people were killed, food and medical stocks were looted and buildings and vehicles were burned.

Four aid workers who were kidnapped by the rebel group have since been released. U-N-H-C-R Spokesman, Kris Janowski, says aid workers will remain in Lira for a couple of days to pick-up refugees who may still trickle into the town. He says people will remain in Kiryondongo for about one month, before being moved to a permanent site in Kyangwali.

He says, "The people who are at the transit site are being given a plot of land to build their own littlen shelters. It is an existing site. However, it was quite small and it had to be considerably expanded. A clinic has been set up. They are also received rations from the World Food Program."

Mr. Janowski says the site of Kyangwali already holds nearly seven-thousand refugees and will be expanded to receive the new influx.

Meanwhile the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says it has suspended its regular programs in the northern Ugandan districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader.

UNICEF Spokeswoman, Wivina Belmonte, says the agency has switched to emergency relief.

She says, "Things like health centers in camps we used to provide for, no longer exist. Half the health centers in Gulu have been shut down due to safety concerns. What we have to do now is figure out how to get vital emergency health care to people who need them. Just because the health cares have shut down does not mean that the needs have disappeared. The thing is that people are harder to get to. If they are in displaced camps, that is one way of reaching them. But, they are not all necessarily still there. They are fleeing for their safety."

UNICEF says more than one-half million people are displaced in northern Uganda. Most of them are women and children. The Lord's Resistance Army has warned aid agencies to get out of northern Uganda and southern Sudan or face renewed attacks. The World Food Program rejects this ultimatum. A W-F-P Spokeswoman says the agency will not suspend its distribution of aid in the region because the needs are too great.

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