WFP HELPS 260,000 UGANDANS RETURN TO THEIR HOMES IN THE NORTHEAST
KAMPALA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today it had started providing food to help resettle more than 260,000 people driven from their homes in northeastern Uganda by fighting and attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Since 1996, WFP has assisted 2.4 million Ugandans, mostly with relief food, in areas attacked by the LRA. But this is the first time that WFP provides food packages to help people return to their homes in LRA-affected areas. There has been no major attack by the LRA in the northeast since February this year, so this has allowed some of the displaced people to resume farming.
"People are moving back to their villages, or to camps nearer to their homes. The rations are meant to provide food until their first harvest season and to encourage more people to return to their villages to resume normal lives," said WFP Uganda Country Representative Ken Noah Davies.
"Over the last six weeks, we have distributed 2,720 metric tons of cereals, corn-soya blend, vegetable oil and beans to benefit over 165,000 people in Katakwi and Soroti districts," he said.
In collaboration with the Uganda Red Cross Society, WFP plans to provide resettlement rations to internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kaberamaido District in September as soon as it establishes exactly how many of them are there. WFP estimates that more than 97,000 people will receive 1,700 tons of food to return to their villages in Kaberamaido this month.
Before launching its new operation, WFP conducted assessments in Teso to determine how former IDPs can cope with their food needs. "WFP hopes to completely phase out relief food distribution in Teso by 2005 if the security situation remains stable," Davies said.
In 2002, WFP helped to resettle some 87,000 people in Bundibugyo in western Uganda following the end of the government's conflict with the rebel Allied Democratic Forces.
Even after the IDPs are resettled, WFP plans to stay on in Teso to assist in school feeding. It will also continue to provide special feeding for malnourished children, pregnant and lactating mothers and children who were abducted by the LRA and later escaped or were released.
WFP hopes to reach over 120,000 primary school children in Teso over the next five years.
One of WFP's planned programmes is "Food for Assets," where food is used as an incentive to create assets in former conflict areas. The agency will work with districts and sub-counties in Teso to rehabilitate community assets, such as roads and small dams, destroyed or damaged during the LRA insurgency. Under this operation, WFP food will support people who set up school gardens and build teachers' houses, fuel-efficient stoves, dining halls and food stores.
An 18-year rebellion against the government by the LRA has uprooted a total of 1.6 million people from their homes. They live in 188 crammed camps, with minimal access to farming land and the most basic social services. Over 60 percent of the population of northern and eastern Uganda, mostly women and children, are displaced, living in camps or with relatives.
The LRA abducted more than 12,000 children between June 2002 and December 2003. Fearing abduction, more than 40,000 young people shelter every night in the streets, churches, hospitals, night shelters and other public buildings in the northern towns of Gulu, Kitgum, Lira and Kalongo.
Nearly 90 percent of all displaced people in northern and eastern Uganda depend on WFP food. WFP needs US$23.8 million to help 2.4 million people over the next seven months including IDPs, refugees, schoolchildren, HIV/AIDS-affected families and people building assets in conflict-affected areas.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the United Nations frontline agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school -- a gift of hope for a brighter future.
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