Rural IDPs priority for refugee body

Posted: December 17, 2007 in Blog

A follow up in today’s paper, to this story that ran last week.

 

CHRISTOPHER MASON

Kampala

A lack of resources has forced the United Nations to prioritise its resettlement efforts on camps in the north over those who sought refuge in urban areas during the Lords Resistance Army conflict, according to a spokesperson for the international agency.

“The reason our focus is not on urban IDPs is strictly a priority issue,” said Roberta Russo, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“We have limited funds so we focus on where the highest needs are.”

Most of the 4.5 million people living in northern Uganda were displaced during the conflict. The majority went to camps that were established to provide security and allow aid organisations to access those in need. But estimates say anywhere between 300,000 and 600,000 fled to urban areas, like Kampala, to escape instability.

Now that the conflict has ended and the resettlement process is underway, it is becoming increasingly apparent that most of those going home are from camps and not the urban areas where so many fled.

On Wednesday, Daily Monitor published an article detailing life in Kireka on the eastern outskirts of Kampala where some 10,000 urban IDPS, mostly Acholi, live.

Many work in a nearby stone quarry for as little as Shs1,000 per day.  All those interviewed said they would like to return to their homes, but said they have not received any support from the government or international organisations that would help them do so.

A 2006 report by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States illustrates how many people in the north, especially Acholi, fled to urban areas rather than camps. That report found that 33 per cent of Acholi displaced between 1988-1996 came to Kampala.

The report found that 75 per cent of Acholi IDPs in Kampala ate only one meal per day and that 44 per cent could not afford to eat meat.

Many of those conditions continue to persist today. Recently, an NGO, Kids Inspiring Kids, organized a Christmas party for children living in the Acholi section of Kireka (often called Acholi Quarter). At the party, a cow was slaughtered and cooked for the children, marking the first time many of them had eaten meat in months and in some cases years.

Ms Russo, in outlining the UN’s strategy for resettlement, said IDP camps had been prioritised over urban IDPs in part because security concerns in the camps are motivating officials to evacuate the camps as quickly and safely as possible.

“Most of the protection concerns are in the camps,” Ms Russo said.  The high mortality rates and documented assault cases in many of the camps illustrate those concerns.

But urban IDPs say they should get greater support in their efforts to rebuild their lives back home.  Ms Russo said no IDP, whether in camps or in urban settings, would receive money for transport back home. Instead, the support is focused on the areas to which people are returning.

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