Northern Uganda is experiencing large scale humanitarian needs after suffering from 20 years of protracted conflict between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Civilians have suffered both from indiscriminate attacks and abductions by the LRA and the negative effects of the government's reprisals. A majority of the northern Ugandan population have been forced to flee their homes by LRA violence or have been relocated to camps by the Ugandan government, leading to 90% displacement in the worst affected region of Acholiland. This massive displacement has been exacerbated by sporadic Karamojong cattle raids that lead to further insecurity and displacement as well as prevent resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Climatic hazards such as drought, crop diseases, floods or volcanic eruptions, could add an extra degree of risk to an already vulnerable population.
There are currently an estimated 2 million IDPs(1) in northern Uganda and at least 1.5 million IDPs receiving food aid and other direct assistance. IDPs continue to live in over 200 substandard IDP camps where neither minimum services nor adequate protection are provided. Over 250,000 refugees(2) from Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are currently residing in Uganda, adding yet another dimension to the humanitarian situation.
According to the 2005 Human Development Report, Uganda is ranked 144th out of 177 countries. Whilst Uganda's ranking has risen steadily over the past decade, this advancement has left northern Uganda behind and their needs remain as serious and pressing as ever. Uganda ranks 12th in DG ECHO's(3) Global Needs Assessment (GNA), putting it in the high needs category. This is clearly reflected in the recent health and mortality study carried out by the Ministry of Health in Uganda, World Health Organization and other NGOs stating that there was an excess mortality rate in Acholiland of over 1,000 persons per week.(4) Although the government later pulled back from this figure, even the more moderate estimates of crude mortality 1.54/10,000/day and under 5 mortality 3.18/10,000/day in Gulu, Amuru, Kitgum and Pader districts put northern Uganda well in excess of the emergency threshold. Conditions such as the high morbidity and mortality rates, substandard IDP living conditions, and the estimated 100,000 already killed in the conflict with the LRA require a strong response by the humanitarian community. Unfortunately, despite increased attention following visits of the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, and Jan Egeland, Under Secretary-General for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, the Ugandan humanitarian response still falls short of meeting all the basic needs of the IDP population.
Recent peace talks in Juba, Sudan have raised hopes that the conflict may be brought to an end and lead to an improved humanitarian situation. However, it is still too early to tell whether this process will succeed or, like so many times before, it could also fail and result in an escalation of the conflict. At present, the security situation has improved and many IDPs have begun to return home spontaneously. 2005 saw a high return of LRA and formerly abducted persons, which has since tapered off in 2006.
Since 2000, DG ECHO (Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid) has channelled more than EUR 63 million into northern Uganda and is a main donor in the country for humanitarian assistance. Whilst phasing out of humanitarian involvement in Uganda has been and is actively considered, the high level of humanitarian needs maintains the necessity for emergency funding. Steps, however, have been taken to exit the funding of health interventions as development actors are getting prepared for longer term funding. DG ECHO's priority is to address the core emergency humanitarian needs. The principal objective will be to assist vulnerable population groups affected by insecurity and climatic hazards. Water and sanitation, health, livelihoods and food security, non-food items, training and education, protection, camp planning and coordination, reaching the 1.5 million beneficiaries, are the main sectors.
This approach in Uganda is consistent with DG ECHO's 2006 strategy (Needs based, LRRD, mainstreaming of Children and HIV/AIDS)
DG ECHO's 2007 Global Plan includes three specific objectives:
- To cope with the consequences of population movements and relieve the suffering of internally displaced persons, returnees and refugees in Uganda via improved water and sanitation, health, livelihoods and food security, non-food items, training and education, protection, and camp management and planning.
- To strengthen the management and coordination of humanitarian response among multilateral and bilateral agencies and non governmental agencies in Uganda.
- To maintain a technical capacity in the field and to assess needs, appraise project proposals and to co-ordinate and monitor the implementation of operations.
The envelope proposed for DG ECHO's Uganda 2007 Global Plan is EUR 13 million.
The duration of the Decision is 18 months, starting from 1 January 2007.
(1) OCHA CAP 2006
(2) UNHCR 2006
(3) Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid - DG ECHO
(4) "Health and mortality survey among internally displaced persons in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts, northern Uganda," Ministry of Health of Uganda, UNICEF, WHO, WFP, UNFPA, IRC, July 2005.