Tuesday, May 24, 2005

UGANDA: More children sleeping on the streets in the north - UNICEF

Good news. Yendor emailed me back. I have replied. Copy is in the comments at this post. Unfortunately, I forgot to answer his question as to what news I'd like to receive and see pictures of. I have some ideas, but if readers here have any suggestions please feel free to comment here or email. Thanks.

See Yendor's photos at Flickr that he took between 28 and 29 April of this year in Gulu, northern Uganda. Here is one of some nice new looking trucks (wonder who paid for them, where the money is coming from - not that it is any of my business, just curious is all). Yendor wrote the caption:

Gulu in Northern Uganda

Photo: Visiting IDP camps and NGO's operating in Gulu, Uganda. Military escort needed as area is still under rebel threat. (Courtesy Yendor in N Uganda)
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UNICEF says more children sleeping on the streets in the north of Uganda

Sadly, this report from IRIN Kampala May 24, 2005 describes how children are caught in the crossfire between the LRA and the Ugandan army:

Renewed fighting, killings and abductions by rebels in northern Uganda has forced 10,000 more children to spend their nights on the streets of major towns in the region, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a report.

The agency said the new "night commuters" - the name for the children who trek nightly to the relative safety of urban centres because of the threat of attacks and abductions by rebelf of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - joined another 30,000 who already had been sleeping on the streets, under shop verandas and in bus parks.

"Figures for late April stand at approximately 40,000 night commuters in total, up from about 30,000 in the previous month, owing to renewed LRA attacks, killings and abductions in the region," the report, issued on 18 May, stated.

According to UNICEF estimates, more than 20,000 children were abducted between 1986 and December 2004, and half of them had been taken captive since June 2002. Many of the children were forced into combat and sexual slavery.

Last year, some 3,500 former abductees passed through civilian reception centres in the affected districts. The number of children killed, conceived or born in LRA captivity, however, remains unknown.

"A political deadlock and intensified LRA attacks in recent weeks following the expiry of a ceasefire have contributed significantly to the high numbers of internally displaced persons," the report explained.

In December, the mediators attempted to bring together Ugandan officials and the LRA to seek a peaceful end to the war, which has displaced over 1.4 million people and forced them to live in more than 200 camps scattered across eight conflict-affected districts, namely Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Apac, Soroti, Katakwi and Kaberamaido.

Last-minute hitches prevented the signing of a draft ceasefire, and the government instead resumed military operations against the insurgents.

On Friday, the army claimed it had killed a senior LRA commander who was a member of the rebel team that met government representatives in a bid to start peace talks.

UNICEF decried the fact that children and women in northern Uganda had continued to endure the harsh consequences of a 19-year conflict that has pitted LRA rebels against the Uganda People's Defence Forces, the government army.

"The child-centric conflict has wrought unprecedented violence, uncertainty and poverty to a region once famed as Uganda's 'food basket', wrecking havoc and depriving the local population, mostly children and women, of their rights to access basic healthcare, safe water, education, protection and shelter," the agency said.

The report said nearly a quarter (23 percent) of primary-school age children were out of school, while half (50 percent to 60 percent) of the student body at primary schools in Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira and Apac districts were still displaced.

In recent months, UNICEF added, some 77 cases of cholera were recorded in the huge internally displaced persons (IDP) camp of Pabbo and the neighbouring Gengari and Parabongo camps. Despite the progress that has been made to provide access to safe water, about one-half of the IDPs in the affected districts have access to less than five litres per person per day.

The shadowy LRA began fighting ostensibly to replace the government of President Yoweri Museveni with an administration based on the Biblical Ten Commandments, but not much else is known about the insurgency, as it rarely makes public statements.

The group has been widely accused of abducting thousands of young boys and girls for recruitment into its ranks or to be turned into "wives" for LRA commanders. LRA fighters have often carried out attacks in several eastern districts as well.


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