By Daniel Wallis
KAMPALA, July 11 (Reuters) - Ugandan refugees who fled fighting in the north of the country are moving to camps nearer their homes but face acute water shortages and difficult living conditions, a medical charity said on Monday.
Nineteen years of civil war in the region have uprooted about 1.6 million people and triggered one of the world's worst and most neglected humanitarian emergencies.
There have been fewer attacks by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels this year in Lira district - one of several affected by the conflict - and thousands of displaced people are slowly moving to camps closer to their original land.
"The population in the rural camps where MSF is working has risen from 120,000 to 170,000 people, but no major improvements in water supply have been made by the responsible district authorities," Peter Muller, head of mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Uganda, told Reuters by telephone from the north.
Residents queued for three hours a day for water, Muller said, and survived on less than three litres per person per day, less than one-fifth of the internationally recognised minimum for good health.
People searching for water outside the camps risked being attacked by fighters from the LRA, which is notorious for massacring civilians, mutilating survivors and abducting children to use as fighters or sex slaves.
As a result, residents gathered contaminated water from gutters and streams, Muller said, leading to water-related illnesses such as cholera, diarrhoea and worms.
Sanitary conditions in the camps also posed a serious threat to health, he said, with nearly a quarter of refugees having no access to a pit latrine, and those who did had to share it with at least 60 others.
He said MSF would drill 28 bore holes in the area, repair and build pumps and dig more than 3,000 toilets.
Lira was the site of one of the worst LRA attacks, when more than 250 people were killed at Barlonyo camp in February 2004. However, the district has been relatively quiet since.
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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