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More Than One Million Displaced In Northern Unganda As Rebel Attacks Continue - 2003-11-11

A top UN official is calling the conflict in northern Uganda “the biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today.” Jan Egeland, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, has just completed a two-day visit to northern Uganda.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program is distributing aid to many displaced people in northern Uganda. But the WFP says the upsurge in attacks by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army has made the operation difficult and dangerous. Ken Davies is the country director for the WFP. From Kampala, he gives English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua an update on food relief operations.

He says, ”Unfortunately, the situation is only worsening at the moment. There has been a lot of rebel activity, so more people are fleeing their homes. The number of displaced keeps increasing.” How many displaced? Mr. Davies says, “The numbers are going up almost by the day. We are now up to about one point three million people who have fled their homes because of atrocities by the Lord’s Resistance Army.” He says the LRA is attacking villages and “decapitating people wholesale.”

The WFP official describes relief operations as “an incredible challenge.” He thanks the Ugandan government for providing military escort for many of the food convoys. He says many children are being abducted by the LRA and forced to fight. If they don’t fight, he says, they’ll be executed.

As for food supplies, Mr. Davies says more are needed. “We’re struggling to stay ahead. We’re short about 30,000 tons between now and the middle of next year. And if I don’t get about 15,000 tons in the next two months we’re going to have to cut back on supplies. And that means increasing child malnutrition, increasing hunger and possibly death.”

He praises the United States, Japan, Britain, The Netherlands and other countries that have contributed. But he hopes the UN envoy will make a convincing case about the problem, resulting in more aid for Uganda.