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UGANDA: 1,000 displaced die every week in war-torn north - report

Kampala, 29 August 2005 (IRIN) - An estimated 1,000 people displaced by the 19-year-old war in northern Uganda die every week from violence or disease, the Ugandan Ministry of Health and its partners said in a report.

The report, based on a survey of the health and mortality of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northern Acholi subregion - made up of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts - indicated that malaria, HIV/AIDS and violence were the leading causes of death in the region.

"A total excess mortality of 28,283 of which 11,068 [are] children under five, can be projected for the entire Acholi region between January and July 2005, namely about 1,000 excess deaths per week," the report, released in August, stated.

It added that malaria and AIDS were the top self-reported causes of death. It found that children below the age of five were susceptible to an illness with symptoms encompassing oral thrust, malnutrition and diarrhoea.

The Ugandan Ministry of Health conducted the survey in partnership with the UN World Health Organization, the UN Children's Fund, the UN World Food Programme, the UN Population Fund, the International Rescue Committee and the UK Department for International Development.

Northern Uganda has been the scene of one of the world's most bizarre and brutal conflicts; a war that pits the government against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a group that mainly targets civilians.

The conflict has displaced some 1.6 million people, 1.3 million of whom are in the Acholi subregion.

The report, which said the situation presented "a very serious humanitarian emergency", noted that fewer people were killed by direct violence than by disease. It said violence accounted for 9.4 percent of the deaths, occurring mostly outside camps, with about 70 percent of those killed being adult males.

The survey indicated that the LRA principally abducted people below the age of 35, 46.4 percent of whom were children under the age of 15 years.

"In 2005, until July, we estimate that 1,286 persons have been abducted and haven't yet returned to their households," it said.

"Extremely urgent action is needed so as to reduce mortality to non-crisis level," it added, and said the peaceful resolution of the conflict was a crucial step that should be sought by all parties to the conflict.

The report also recommended scaling-up and improving the capacity of health services, including better diagnosis and management of malaria, greater availability of second-line drugs and the creation of more in-patient facilities closer to IDP camps.

It suggested the continuation of the process of camp decongestion to limit the health consequences of overcrowding, and advised the government to "step up efforts to protect IDPs against violent attacks".

The report urged the relevant authorities to keep up general food distribution and promote better infant feeding practices, and recommended increased funding for the humanitarian crisis in the north, with particular emphasis on life-saving interventions and the allocation of sufficient resources to the most deprived areas.

Theme (s): Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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