The Uganda Red Cross (URC) has launched an emergency appeal for US $5.8 million to sustain its humanitarian programmes in several districts of the war-ravaged north. It said assistance for 452,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) could be affected by June, unless funds were found to continue the programmes.
"The resources of the national society will be exhausted in June. This calls for additional support in order to assist 452,000 people who survive in miserable conditions in the embattled districts of Kaberamaido, Katakwi, Lira, Apac, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader," Anitta Underlin, the head of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies sub-office in East Africa, said in a press statement on Friday.
In recent weeks, the statement added, "the needs have increased to critical levels...People lack axes, hoes and spades which would enable them to chop firewood or dig shallow wells and latrines". It said there were no spare parts to repair overworked boreholes or water pumps, and many local health workers had deserted the conflict zones.
The URC has deployed 2,000 volunteers to northern Uganda, where the 18-year-old war between the government and rebels has displaced some 1.5 million people, according to United Nations estimates.
"The Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies is the only lifeline for people unable to tend their fields or travel to markets for fear of being attacked or abducted," the statement said.
"Despite recent tentative returns of some IDPs in areas of the Teso subregion, the majority of them are living in some 60 camps [which] are overcrowded, and food, health care, water and sanitation facilities are often below minimum humanitarian standards," it added.