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IDPs call for basic services

Like more than a million other civilians, this woman recently returned with her family to her home in northern Uganda after spending years in a crowded camp because of a long war with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The once-copious well used by this wo
(Anthony Morland/IRIN)

Ugandan authorities have started closing down internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps in the north, but residents say they are being sent back to villages without basic services.

"How are we going to access medical facilities? How are our children going to go to school?" questioned Deborah Adokorach Adilang in Pader District.

Uganda's Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko said the camps’ closure was "long overdue" because most of the IDPs had returned home.

"The facilities [in return areas] are there but they may not be sufficient," she told IRIN. "The government is committed to providing all the basic facilities and services [and] has committed funds under the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for these purposes."

The government, she added, would rehabilitate the schools, health centres and roads, and provide safe clean water in the villages of return, without mentioning how much money had been committed.

Special arrangements would be made to resettle the most vulnerable IDPs, including the disabled, the severely traumatized, women and child heads of households, orphans and elderly - many of whom were still in the camps.

So far, six camps have been closed in Gulu District, according to Mohamed Boudin, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) field officer for northern Uganda. Another 60 in Gulu, Amuru, Pader and Kitgum Districts have been recommended by the district leaders and UNHCR for phase-out by November. 

[Uganda] A new hut built by a returnee family in Lera Obaro village, Gulu District, where almost two million people were displaced by two decades of conflict. [Date picture taken: 11/27/2006]

La hutte d’une famille rentrée chez elle, à Gulu : les autorités ont commencé à fermer des camps de déplacés dans le nord du pays (photo d’archives)
Vincent Mayanja/IRIN
[Uganda] A new hut built by a returnee family in Lera Obaro village, Gulu District, where almost two million people were displaced by two decades of conflict. [Date picture taken: 11/27/2006]
Friday, December 8, 2006
Les personnes déplacées demandent des services de base
[Uganda] A new hut built by a returnee family in Lera Obaro village, Gulu District, where almost two million people were displaced by two decades of conflict. [Date picture taken: 11/27/2006]

Photo: Vincent Mayanja/IRIN
A returnee's hut in Gulu: Authorities have started closing down internally IDP camps in the north (file photo)

The closures, Boudin added, followed the return home over the past three years of two-thirds of at least 1.2 million IDPs who were forced into camps by insurgency in the region.

Services stretched

Relative peace returned to the area after the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government in 2006.

At present, about 300,000 people in Acholi, which bore the brunt of the conflict, remain in camps, Boudin added.

Stephen Oloya, chairman of the Gulu District camp phase-out committee, said: "We hope to complete the total closure of the 31 camps in the district by the beginning of next year."

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), however, fewer than 30 percent of the returnees have access to clean drinking water.

In a September report, Returns outpace recovery planning, IDMC also noted that overstretched services were failing to meet the demands of returning populations, and schools in the return areas lacked facilities such as housing for teachers, classrooms, latrines and water points.

Some IDPs said land disputes had also affected their resettlement in the villages.


Related Stories:

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

Land rows reverse resettlement

Cattle rustling compounds returnees’ woes

Dangers of unexploded ordnance in north

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: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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