UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: War-related deaths in the north very high - report
KAMPALA, 30 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - Some 146 people die each week in the northern region where rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have waged war against the Uganda government for two decades, charity groups said in a report published on Wednesday.
War-related deaths in the region are three times higher than the number of killings in Iraq since the United States-led invasion that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 - a death rate that represents 0.17 deaths per 10,000 people, compared with 0.052 per 10,000 in Iraq, according to the report, entitled "Counting the Cost: 20 years of war in northern Uganda". It was prepared by 50 aid agencies working in the region.
"Twenty years of conflict have had a devastating impact on children," said the Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda (CSOPNU) report, which was released as Jan Egeland, United Nations Under Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs, arrived in the country to discuss with Ugandan officials a new approach to the situation before visiting camps for the internally displaced in the north.
"Twenty five thousand children have been abducted during the course of the war, 41 percent of all deaths in the camps are amongst children under five [and] 250,000 children in northern Uganda receive no education, despite Uganda's policy of universal primary education.
"An estimated 1,000 children have been born in LRA captivity to girls abducted by the rebel army. At the times of heightened insecurity up to 45,000 children 'night commute' each evening and sleep in streets or makeshift shelters in town centres to avoid being abducted by the rebel LRA," the report added.
"Northern Uganda is one of the world's worst war zones. [...] It is tragedy of the worst proportions. This conflict cannot be allowed to fester any longer. A peaceful resolution of this conflict must be found," said Stella Ayo-Odongo, CSOPNU chairperson.
"The economic cost of the war to Uganda after 20 years is 1.7 billion dollars," the report said. "This is the equivalent of double the UK's gross bilateral public expenditure on aid to Uganda between 1994 and 2001 or the United States' total aid to Uganda between 1994 and 2002."
The LRA is blamed for displacing more than 1.5 million people, forcing them to live in camps. Thousands of children have been abducted to serve in combat or become sex slaves to male rebel fighters. The Ugandan army's efforts to defeat the rebellion militarily have not been successful, and peace efforts by different groups have failed. Humanitarian agencies have asked for action from both the international community and the Ugandan government to end the crisis.
CSOPNU urged the UN Security Council to adopt a recommendation for the appointment of a panel of experts to investigate the activities of the LRA. "The appointment of a high level envoy to reinvigorate peace efforts, address all aspects of the crisis and report back to the UN Security Council on progress has also received widespread support though as yet no action has been taken," the coalition noted.
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