BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Somali Swahili French Great Lakes Hausa Portugeuse
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Africa  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 06:24 GMT
Eyewitness: Uganda's camps of misery
Villagers from Gulu, Pader District
The people in the camps are not receiving enough aid

The more than 40,000 internally displaced people in overcrowded camps in the northern Uganda town of Lira are facing acute food shortages and lack of proper medication.

The authorities in Lira district say they cannot meet on their own the challenges posed by the displaced who have increased the population of the town from 50,000 to 100,000.


The LRA raided our village and forced 52 people into a big grass thatched house and burnt them alive

Yovention
Displaced Ugandan
The displaced people ran to the safety of Lira three months ago when they were attacked by Joseph Kony's brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who infiltrated counties in Apac and Pader districts, near Lira district.

The mayor of Lira, Peter Owiny, told me that the municipal and district authorities have tightened the security around the camps used by the displaced people.

This follows a recent infiltration of Lira suburbs by the LRA rebels who were repulsed by the Uganda Government troops.

The LRA has stepped up its attacks recently in its 16 year war with the government. It says it is seeking to rule Uganda according to the Biblical Ten Commandments.

Food badly needed

"We have tried our best to solicit the assistance of the non-governmental organizations, but these NGOs have been overwhelmed by the number of displaced people which is swelling by the day," Mr Owiny said.

"What is urgently needed is food, medicine, blankets, and tents. The children badly require milk and sugar."

Some of the densely populated camps are in the Lira Cultural Centre, the railway station, and the Lira Starch factory.

When you approach any of the main gates to the 12 camps housing the displaced people on the outskirts of Lira town, you confront an army of desperate children who mistake every visitor for a donor bringing some milk or other badly-needed food relief.

Sick children

But the children draw back their hands in disappointment when they see some of the visitors, like myself, fish out useless machines like bulky microphones and cameras from bags.

Most of the children have been struck by kwashiorkor, a disease caused by essential food deficiency.

Malnourished child in Lira Starch factory camp
Malnutrition takes its toll on the children

They have big tummies, bone heads, stick-like legs and flattened buttocks.

The sound of dry coughing and nose-blowing is a common thing in the camps.

The mothers say since they fled the LRA atrocities three months ago their children have not had milk, tea, or fruit.

A man in his late sixties, Yovention, says that although he is starving and sickly, he is lucky to have survived the LRA's brutal attack on his village of Omot in Pader District.


Men should learn to negotiate peace, because we the women are tired of being widows when the men die from useless wars

Margaret
Displaced Ugandan
"I lost my two brothers when the LRA raided our village and forced 52 people into a big grass thatched house and burnt them alive," he said.

"I do not know in which direction my wife ran because she has not been able to join us in this camp."

No blankets

When I inspected the inside of the camps, I did not see a single blanket, or mattress.

Some of the displaced people had spread spear grass on the cold ground to serve as mattresses.

What I found most shocking was the fact that in nearly all the camps, the women, the men and the children competed for sleeping space in one given place.

Students from Pader District queue up for food in a Lira camp
All age groups are affected

The haphazard sleeping arrangements are a big inconvenience to the women who told me that some of the men who share the bare floor with them are lustful and "disturb" them throughout the night.

Margaret, a retired teacher staying in the Lira Starch factory camps, expressed her frustration

"I curse whoever is prolonging the war in this part of Uganda," she said.

"Men should learn to negotiate peace, because we the women are tired of being widows when the men die from useless wars."

"We pray that peace will return to northern Uganda soon."


Key stories

Background
See also:

14 Oct 02 | Africa
11 Aug 02 | Africa
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes