IDP children's death rates over emergency levels, report says

The mortality rates for children in northern Uganda's internally displaced persons' (IDP) camps are above emergency levels, a joint survey by the Ugandan government and its partners has found.

Of the estimated 1.4 million IDPs in the conflict-ridden region, of whom 80 percent are women and children, the survey's preliminary findings reveal that crude mortality rates and under-five mortality rates are above the emergency thresholds of one death per 10,000 per day and two deaths per 10,000 per day respectively.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is faced with a 46 percent funding shortfall in the over US $40 million it requires to deal effectively with the crisis, UN News reported.

The UNICEF spokesman in Uganda, Chulho Hyun, told IRIN on Friday that the survey was jointly carried out by the Ministry of Health, the UN World Health Organization, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Agency and local authorities in the northern districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader.

"The survey was conducted in the three districts and was based on a six-month recall period from January to July 2005," Hyun said.

"The study population was 4,000 rural and municipal IDP households and was done in order to establish the mortality rate of IDPs as well as to describe the demographic characteristics - such as disease patterns and causes of death - of IDP populations in the region," he added.

Regarding the implications of the findings, Hyun said the survey showed that there was a need to accelerate and expand humanitarian activities, not only in the three districts, but also in all of Uganda's conflict-affected districts.

"There is a need for heightened coordination of the humanitarian intervention in the region," he said, noting that the study had further informed the level of humanitarian intervention in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader.

UNICEF treats some 300,000 children under the age of five years for malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and other diseases in 70 percent of the northern Uganda's IDP camps in order to help reduce child mortality.

The agency said it required an additional $9 million to stem the food, nutrition and health crisis, UN News reported, and a further $10.2 million to cover the most basic education and water and sanitation requirements.

For the past 19 years, northern Uganda has been the scene of a war between the government and the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army. The conflict has displaced up to 1.6 million people in the northern and eastern regions, most of whom live in IDP camps and are largely dependent on humanitarian aid for their survival.