DR Congo + 2 more

WFP appeals for more aid to continue feeding nearly 700,000 refugees and displaced in Uganda

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NAIROBI - The United Nations World Food Programme today appealed to donors to fully fund its emergency operation in Uganda so the agency can continue feeding nearly 700,000 internally displaced people and refugees in the country.
The food aid agency urgently needs 45,000 tonnes - worth $27 million - in order to maintain food distributions over the next several months.

The WFP operation, which was launched in April 2000 and remains almost sixty percent underfunded, had originally planned to feed 411,500 people. But intensified rebel activity in Uganda last year sent tens of thousands more fleeing from their homes in search of food and shelter. Coupled with increasing influxes of new refugees from Sudan, the number of people receiving WFP food in Uganda has skyrocketed to some 673,000 in Northern and Western Uganda.

"The numbers of refugees and internally displaced people who need our help has increased drastically," said Burk Oberle, WFP Great Lakes Regional Manager. "And if more refugees arrive in the coming months, our already under-funded operation will be further strained."

Prolonged insecurity within the borders of Uganda - which is holding presidential elections on March 12 - and civil conflict in neighbouring DRC and Sudan, have led to swelling number of people cut off from their homes and a means of survival.

In the Western district of Bundibugyo, which borders DRC, rebel activity has caused thousands to flee from their homes and communities. WFP helps some 97,000 people living in 51 camps there through general food distributions and food-for-work activities.

In addition, the agency assists 425,000 people who have been displaced by continued attacks on communities by rebels in northern Uganda's Kitgum and Gulu districts who are cut off from their crop-producing land.

Despite an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that first hit Gulu district last October, WFP continued to feed the hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in protected camps. During the epidemic, WFP also provided food rations to boarding school children and hospital patients suffering from Ebola and other illnesses to prevent contact with friends and family members, therefore reducing the spread of infection. Both Gulu and the country were declared Ebola-free late last month.

Although the increase of internally displaced people in Uganda has levelled off since last year's escalation of rebel activity, their numbers remain high. Furthermore, refugees have continued to move into the country. In the past three weeks alone, more than 4,000 Sudanese refugees primarily belonging to the Dinka tribe, have crossed into north-western Uganda seeking food and water as a result of drought and ongoing civil conflict in South Sudan. Some 150,000 Sudanese refugees are fed by WFP in the country.

WFP is committed to assisting the return of internally displaced people to their communities in the coming months, if security conditions improve in the country. The agency will help with enhanced school feeding and self-sufficiency projects including food-for-training and food-for-work.

"Thousands of women, children and men have suffered greatly and we are determined to help them get back on their feet and become self-sufficient again once security permits," said Oberle.

WFP also feeds more than 6,000 Congolese who fled ethnic fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri district in January, who are now based in camps in Bundibugyo. They are being assisted under the Great Lakes Regional Operation covering 1.2 million people in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania until July 2001. WFP still requires US$98 million against its requested US$274 million for its Great Lakes' regional operation

The World Food Programme is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999 WFP fed more than 89 million people in 82 countries - including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Abrahamson
WFP Spokesperson, Nairobi
Tel. + 254 2 622336

Jeffrey Rowland
WFP Spokesperson, Rome
Tel. + 39 06 6513 2971

Christiane Berthiaume
WFP Spokesperson, Geneva
Tel. + 41 22 917 8594

Burk Oberle
WFP Uganda
Tel. + 256 41 231112