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WFP appeals for more resources to feed IDPs

[Uganda] WFP Deputy Executive Director, Sheila Sisulu with IDPs.
WFP deputy executive director, Sheila Sisulu, visiting northern Uganda IDP camps in 2004. (IRIN)

At least 1.45 million people displaced by conflict in northern Uganda could experience severe food shortages unless the UN World Food Programme (WFP) receives fresh donations to sustain its operations in the region beyond December, a WFP official said.

"We spend US $8 million per month to feed more than 1.45 million internally displaced people [IDPs] in northern Uganda," Ken Davies, WFP country director in Uganda, told IRIN on Wednesday.

"We are running out of resources to continue with the operation beyond December, and appeal for help from the international community," he added.

WFP said in a separate statement that it needed $58 million to buy food locally to feed almost the entire population of northern Uganda, who had been driven out of their homes by frequent attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

"Ninety percent of the displaced in Uganda heavily depend on WFP food and nutritional assistance for their survival," Daly Belgasmi, director of WFP's Geneva liaison office, said in the statement upon his return from a week-long visit to Uganda.

"This is a major operation to assist people whose livelihoods have been crushed by decades of a cruel conflict," he added.

Davies said there were plans to reduce food supplies to areas of the northern Acholi sub-region, where it was anticipated that people had grown enough food following an improvement in security.

A recent lull in the LRA's violent activities, he added, had allowed people in IDP camps greater access to the surrounding fertile land during the planting season.

The IDPs, however, still faced the challenge of growing or buying the remaining 50 percent of their food until at least the July 2006 harvest.

"The extremely vulnerable groups, like the elderly with no family support, families headed by children and the sick, who account for 10 percent of the population, will keep the 100 percent food relief," Davies added.

Fighters of the LRA have mutilated and massacred civilians and abducted more than 20,000 children during the 19-year-old insurgency in northern Uganda.

A recent health and mortality survey carried out by the Ugandan health ministry in partnership with the World Health Organization concluded that the death rate among children displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda remained above the emergency threshold.

The survey, supported by WFP, the UN Children's Fund, the UN Population Fund and the International Rescue Committee, found that among the IDPs - 80 percent of whom are women and children - the estimated crude mortality rate and the under-five mortality rate were above the emergency threshold of one death per 10,000 per day and two deaths per 10,000 per day, respectively.

"Without continued WFP support to the IDPs through mid-2006, malnutrition rates, particularly among children, would likely skyrocket," Davies said.

He added: "WFP, in collaboration with the government and NGOs, is doing all it can to ensure that the nutritional needs of the displaced continue to be met, but additional funding from the international community is imperative."

Also see IRIN special report on northern Uganda

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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