Rebels may attack more refugees in northern Uganda, warns UNHCR
KAMPALA, Uganda, July 12 (UNHCR) - Tensions are rising in northern Uganda after Monday's rebel attack on a refugee settlement that killed six and sent thousands of refugees fleeing amid new fears of violence in the area.
On Wednesday, another refugee died from injuries sustained from Monday's raid by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on Maaji settlement in Adjumani district, bringing the death toll to six. Five refugees were abducted, but all of them have since returned to the settlement.
Maaji settlement used to host 11,000 mainly-Sudanese refugees. Nearly 8,000 of them have fled their homes in the settlement, with some 2,500 now encamped in two churches and a feeding centre in the area. Some are sheltering under trees, while others have moved to Ukusijoni settlement 10 km away. Hundreds more are making the 45-km trip to the nearest town of Adjumani.
Water supplies in the area are inadequate to meet the needs of the displaced, raising concerns about the sanitation situation there. UNHCR staff have reported an increase in the number of patients at health centres.
The UN refugee agency is working with partners to bring assistance to these newly-displaced refugees. In addition to supplies already in stock in Adjumani, relief aid to meet the needs of up to 5,000 people is being prepared in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, for immediate dispatch to the northern district. Because of continuing insecurity along the Gulu-Adjumani road, UNHCR will have to make detours to send urgent supplies to the refugees.
According to assessments made by UNHCR staff and Ugandan government officials on Wednesday, more than 150 houses belonging to over 70 families were burnt down by the estimated 200 rebels, who also looted drugs and equipment from Maaji settlement's health centre. The rebels also torched five classrooms in a primary school used by refugees, and a grinding mill at a local trading centre. The Ugandan government has sent in more army personnel to beef up security in the area.
Meanwhile, there are fears that rebel attacks could spread to Kitgum, some 200 km east of Maaji, after the killing of a government official there on Wednesday. Reports of the killing spread panic among the 24,000 refugees in Kitgum's Achol-Pii camp, where over 100 refugees were killed in a 1997 attack by LRA rebels. UNHCR remains very concerned about the safety of this group of refugees.