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Aid on the way for displaced Sudanese refugees in Uganda

Aid on the way for displaced Sudanese refugees in Uganda

More than 31,000 Sudanese refugees have been registered since fleeing rebel raids on their settlements in northern Uganda. UNHCR and its partner agencies plan to start distributing food and relief items this weekend.
7 May 2004

ADJUMANI, Uganda, May 7 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and its partners will start distributing aid this weekend to some of the more than 31,000 Sudanese refugees who have been registered after fleeing recent rebel raids on their settlements in northern Uganda.

A registration campaign by UNHCR, the Ugandan government and other aid agencies has so far counted 28,000 displaced refugees in Adjumani district, 2,500 in Moyo district and 1,000 in Arua district of northern Uganda. An additional 500 also reportedly crossed back into Sudan following attacks by the much-feared Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on their settlements.

Many of the displaced refugees are now living with friends and relatives about 30 km north of their raided settlements. They are concentrated in areas like Alere, Keyo, Magburu and the Meirieye transit centre. This mass influx has caused the refugee population on the east shore of the Nile river to double in size. It has also strained the area's water resources, as well as sanitation and community services like schools and clinics.

UNHCR and its partner agencies have sent a team to assess the displaced refugees' immediate needs. The aid workers plan to start distributing food and relief items like blankets and plastic sheeting starting on Saturday.

The LRA apparently hides in the Zoka Forest east of the Nile river and has undertaken 30 raids over the last three months on both refugee and Ugandan communities in the area. The Ugandan army is reportedly maintaining four battalions in the Adjumani region, and the raids on the Zoka Forest refugee settlements, which are now largely empty, have reportedly stopped.

"We hope that the additional security measures will help the displaced refugees to go back since it is urgent for them to look after their farms as this is planting season and they normally must raise much of their own food," said UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler at a press briefing in Geneva Friday.

UNHCR cares for 173,000 Sudanese in the north of Uganda. Many live in settlements west of the Nile river, while some 32,000 refugees lived in the area around the Zoka forest, where they are exposed to LRA raids. Over the years, some 1.5 million Ugandans living in the region have similarly been displaced from their home villages by the LRA fighters.