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After rebel attacks in Uganda, UN agency urgently needs more funds to help refugees

After rebel attacks in Uganda, UN agency urgently needs more funds to help refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today said it desperately needs funds to continue its work in Uganda, where the agency is helping thousands of people recently dispersed by a rebel attack.

"The new emergency situation in Uganda has placed an additional strain on UNHCR's Uganda budget, which is already severely underfunded," spokesman Kris Janowski told a press briefing in Geneva.

The agency has received only $5 million - including $3 million from the United States and $1.8 million from Japan - out of the $16 million needed for the Uganda effort. "UNHCR is appealing to donors for urgent funds," Mr. Janowski said.

On Sunday, the agency finished transferring about 20,000 Sudanese refugees from the northern Ugandan town of Lira to a safer location in Kiryondongo. The refugees had converged in Lira last week after fleeing the 5 August attack on the Acholi-Pii camp by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

Today, the agency welcomed the LRA's release of four International Rescue Committee workers who had been abducted during the Acholi-Pii attack.

The settlement of Kiryondongo, which already hosts 13,000 people, is being quickly upgraded to accommodate over 23,000 refugees who have just arrived there. In making its plea for funds, UNHCR pointed out that the average cost of setting up a new camp for 20,000 refugees is $2.5 million.

In a related development, the World Food Programme (WFP) today underscored that it will not suspend emergency food deliveries for thousands of displaced Ugandans and Sudanese refugees living in northern Uganda, despite demands from the Lord's Resistance Army that all humanitarian workers pull out of that region.

While the area's insecurity makes food delivery impossible without heavy national military escorts, WFP says it is obliged to do all it can to help the people there as long as the Government guarantees security for its aid operations.

WFP has distributed 2,100 tons of food during the last three weeks to internally displaced people in the camps in northern Uganda.