Closure of camps starts in Northern Uganda as IDPs return home

Briefing Notes, 11 September 2007

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 September 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The first two out of 40 camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) are to be closed today in Uganda's northern Lango region as most of the IDPs there have gone home. This is the result of the improved security situation, ongoing peace talks between the Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and generally improved freedom of movement. Estimates are that some 92 percent of some 466,000 IDPs in the Lango Region at the height of the displacement in 2005 have returned. The camps in the Lango region were established between 2002 and 2004.

However, the situation is different in the Acholi region where, out of some 1.1 million IDPs in 2005, more than 63 percent remain in the camps. With the continuation of peace talks and continually improving security we expect to see more IDPs return to their homes.

This morning, the Ugandan Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, the UNHCR representative in Kampala and former IDPs will symbolically close the deserted Otwal Railway and Agweng camps by demolishing huts and planting trees. The closure of the scheduled 40 camps in the Lango region should be completed by mid-2008.

We are the lead agency for camp management in Uganda. The camp closure will include tearing down empty huts, filling in pit latrines and levelling the land. In addition, where needed, a mine action team will assess the area. The budget for the camp phase-out activities is US$5,000 per camp. The total cost of the scheduled closure of the first 40 camps is US$200,000.

Some of the IDP sites were formed around major trading centres and will continue to have a significant number of inhabitants. UNHCR intends to transform all residual IDP sites into viable communities. The Camp Phase-out Committees will identify these former camps and advise on activities to facilitate their transformation into sustainable communities. The budget for these activities is US$18,000 per camp and so far three are scheduled for such transformation. UNHCR will carry out environmental rehabilitation and environmental education in consultation with the host community and local authorities. Subject to the availability of funds, support for the re-establishment of market facilities, rehabilitation of roads, health and education facilities, tree planting, support of livelihoods, etc. will be also implemented.

At the peak of displacement, in 2005, there were 242 camps hosting 1,842,500 IDPs forced from their homes by the war between the LRA and the Ugandan Government forces. As of the end of June 2007, 539,550 IDPs had returned to their homes and some 916,000 IDPs remain in the camps. Another 381,000 moved to the new sites closer to their homes.

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This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.

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