From email@example.com Thu Jan 6 10:36:11 2000
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
UN Designs Self-Sufficiency Programme For Refugees
By Peter Owuor, IPS, 30 December 1999
KAMPALA, Dec 30 (IPS) - UN agencies operating in Uganda have designed a strategy to develop skills for self-reliance among refugees and phase out general food distribution by mid 2002.
Food distribution will be retained only in orphanages and institutions where an estimated 3,000 refugee children receive basic education and vocational skills. By 2000, the UN agencies want to reduce food distribution by half.
The four-year 'Self Reliance Strategy For Refugees' is estimated to cost 25 million US Dollars under the 'United Nations Consolidated Inter Agency Appeal for Uganda, December-January 2000'.
The lead agency would be the World Food programme (WFP), although the programme involves the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Uganda Government.
"We have about 200,000 refugees in Uganda at the moment. Over 90 percent of them are from Sudan. There are also Internally Displaced People (IDPs) but UNHCR is not handling the IDPs," Nino Tomoko, the UNHCR spokesperson in Uganda, told IPS.
All in all, the number of people needing food aid is estimated to be more than half a million, most of them peasants displaced by Uganda's civil war.
The new food strategy aims to integrate the refugees into Uganda's development processes, through a number of activities including improvement in nutrition as well as road repairs.
Most of the proposed activities target women, demobilised soldiers, children abducted by rebels and small-scale farmers. There will also be an agricultural component in which seed for cultivation will be multiplied so as to develop farming skills among the refugees.
"The geopolitical and military situation remains uncertain. One single rebel incursion could result in a full spontaneous displacement of resettled IDPs, forcing a relapse into emergency assistance," the Inter agency appeal warns.
Of the money being sought, 2.7 million US Dollars would assist 18,000 Rwandan and Congolese refugees in Western Uganda, who have been displaced by the ongoing war between the Democratic Republic of Congo government and rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda. The funds would support creation of short-term jobs, vocational training and counselling against the traumas of refugee life.
The situation in Western Uganda is particularly volatile at the moment. Two weeks ago WFP suspended food deliveries in the region as a result of rampant attacks by rebels. Three weeks ago, rebels attacked a prison near Fort Portal, a town on the DRC border, and freed more than 300 inmates. They later murdered 90 of the prisoners, taking the rest captive.
WFP is yet to re-open the supply routes to the region, saying the government has been unable to provide troops to protect their vehicles and personnel.
Last week, the Minister of State for Refugees and Disaster Preparedness, Major Tom Butime visited the troubled region, and said the government would deliver some food to the refugees and internally displaced.
The Western Uganda districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo are considered by the UN to be among the 12 out of 45 districts that are insecure. The others include the border districts of Kitgum, Gulu, Lira on the Uganda-Sudan border, Arua, Nebbi and Moyo on the Uganda-Congo border, and Karamoja on the Uganda-Kenya border.
Government officials say the food situation has been so bad that most children are poorly developed. "Upto 90 percent of the children between one and eight years of age among those displaced in camps, are believed to be stunted. The Uganda government is planning to give 50,000 US Dollars to local leaders to try and improve the living standards in the camps.
Under the proposed strategy, Gulu and Kitgum will get a 150,000- US-Dollar facility, which will be managed by WFP, for disease control among the refugees. But the UN agencies worry that landmines planted in the region could put the lives of their staff at risk.
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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