- Rebel attacks on civilians have now become a daily event in northern Uganda. At least 1.6 million people have been displaced by the fighting in the area and the humanitarian crisis "threatens to worsen dramatically," aid organisations today warn. The number of people in need has doubled in the past year.
The UN emergency feeding agency today appealed for urgent donations to meet the growing food needs of at least 1.6 million displaced people in Northern Uganda. The people of the area "are suffering on a massive, shameful scale," said World Food Programme (WFP) Uganda Country Director Ken Davies. "They are urgently in need of help, and we risk failing them unless we receive new donations very soon."
An 18-year rebellion against the government by the brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is behind the immense population displacement. Rebels continue to attack camps for displaced people, burn homes, loot assets, abduct children, rape and kill, in a brutal campaign of violence, according to WFP. They have also disrupted road travel by ambushing vehicles.
The number of people in need, 80 percent of them women and children, has doubled in the past year and the sheer scale of the crisis is stretching the UN agency's resources in Uganda to the breaking point. Some US$ 56 million is required before the end of the year.
But unless significant donations are received in the coming weeks, stocks of cereals will be exhausted by July. WFP needs US$ 21 million now to continue to supply food until August, when the harvest is due.
Without new funding, WFP will be forced to cut rations drastically, the agency today warns. This month, it had to cut fortified blended food for young children from the standard household ration, conserving dwindling supplies for therapeutic feeding centres and primary schools.
It would not be the first time WFP has to cut food rations. "When food supplies last ran short, between November 2002 and February 2003, there was a corresponding surge in malnutrition rates among young children," the agency said.
To make matters worse, displaced farmers missed the April planting season. As a result, even if the rebel attacks cease, many Ugandan civilians will need assistance until the end of the year to survive.
Frequent attacks are preventing people leaving camps to tend fields and gather firewood, making an already precarious existence even more difficult, the agency said. In the past week, LRA rebels are reported to have attacked three women and a child who were returning home from selling goods at a market, forcing them to strip before killing them and then mutilating their bodies.
The rebels also killed more than 50 others in the same period, either during raids on their villages or on market days, WFP reports from the region. Ugandan army efforts to protect its civilians have proved only partially successful.
- Vicious raids by marauding rebels create a climate of terror that prevents farmers from reaching their fields to plant crops, Mr Davies said. "The people have lost an entire growing season, so even if security improves, the next harvest for most people will not be until the end of this year. We are dealing with a critical, ongoing crisis."
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