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Uganda: race against time after camp attack

Briefing notes

Uganda: race against time after camp attack

9 August 2002

UNHCR is racing against time to help the survivors of Monday's rebel attack on a refugee camp in northern Uganda which killed dozens of people and caused tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees to flee southwards.

The attack on Acholi-Pii refugee camp is believed to have left at least 50 people dead, including 38 refugees. Amid rumours of further attacks, a huge trucking operation was mounted on Wednesday to transport refugees from their present location in Lira, south of the scene of the attack, to the transit site of Kiryondongo.

About 17,000 terrified Sudanese refugees reached Lira on Wednesday afternoon, after trekking 60 km on foot from Rachkoko where they had initially fled after the attack. They were being attended to at a hastily-established emergency reception centre. The group of 17,000 travelled under the leadership of the Acholi-Pii camp manager and escorted by tight police security. A further 3,000 refugees have made it to Lira on their own.

UNHCR had earlier urged the group to leave Rachkoko as the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) rebels responsible for Monday's attack were making the area very insecure.

As the refugees arriving in Lira were still being attended to with food, medicines and blankets, the first trucks began heading south to Kiryondongo, an existing refugee settlement where survivors of the attack are temporarily sheltered.

In under 24 hours, a total of 40 truckloads have moved some 4,000 refugees out of Lira to Kiryondongo. By Thursday, UNHCR had increased the trucking capacity to a fleet of 27. We expect that around three-quarters of the 20,000 refugees who have reached Lira will have been transported to Kiryondongo by the end of today.

Plans are being made to quickly upgrade facilities in Kiryondongo, an existing refugee settlement of 13,000 people, to be able to absorb the inflow. A one-month supply of drugs for 10,000 people has already been dispatched, and an emergency hospital tent will be set up. UNHCR has started registering the refugees arriving in Kiryondongo to try and trace the total population of 24,000 refugees who were in Acholi-Pii when the attack took place. Some 5,000 have already been registered.

Blankets, mattresses and jerry cans are also being dispatched and more are on their way from our regional stocks in Ngara, Tanzania. Two trucks left on Thursday with sufficient items for close to 20,000 people. They should reach Kampala by Saturday.

The next step will be to upgrade facilities at Kyangwali, an existing refugee settlement of 6,800 Sudanese refugees, 100 km to the west of Kiryondongo. The authorities gave the green light for the site to receive survivors of the attack. The site is situated in a safe area near the shores of Lake Albert. UNHCR is sending two teams of experts to Kyangwali today and tomorrow, to assess the needs in terms of upgrading the water supply, health centre and other facilities that will be necessary to receive the extra refugees.