(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

"Invisible war victims" in the north require urgent attention - officials

[Uganda] Two girls pose with their pet monkey at Cet Kana, a decongestion camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gulu District, northern Uganda, August 2006.  Almost half of the approximately two million IDPs in Uganda are children.
Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

The elderly, orphans and very sick are Uganda’s "invisible war victims" who urgently need help to transit from life in the internally displaced people’s camps to a normal existence, officials said on 14 July.



Norbert Mao, Gulu district council chairman, told IRIN the decline in the financial commitment to the peace, recovery and development plan - designed to re-ignite progress at community and local government level in the region - had made the transition from emergency to recovery difficult for the vulnerable in IDP camps.



"The old, the orphans and the terminally ill are stuck in camps and as other people have ventured out to go back home, they cannot return and their rights over many issues are compromised. They require [a] big investment from the international community to help them return home," Mao said by telephone from Gulu, which was the epicentre of two decades of war between government forces and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.



His comments coincided with a visit by Walter Kaelin, representative of the UN Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), to northern Uganda to talk to IDPs and communities that have returned home about their challenges.



Kaelin met government stakeholders at central and district level, as well as UN and other international organizations, the World Bank and donors.



Okot Ogong, who heads a parliamentary group of legislators from the affected region, told IRIN: "These people have returned but they are without any support. Their right to food is gravely undermined because they did not get enough seeds, while many are not getting security because the police are sparsely deployed; most water points were destroyed or not in place in many areas.



"Education is in shambles as there are no teachers and no classrooms, while parents cannot afford secondary education for their children."



Mao proposes that the bulk of the more than US$600 million three-year government recovery package for the region should be spent in the first year if it is to have any impact on the ground.



"If we upload much of the package in the first year it will have a dramatic impact. But so far it is still [vague] and there is no transparency as to who will do or is willing to do what," he said.



This financial year, the government has committed some 100 billion shillings ($48 million) to the recovery package.



vm/mw

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