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Number of displaced soars to 30,000 after recent attacks by Ugandan rebels

Number of displaced soars to 30,000 after recent attacks by Ugandan rebels

Following three attacks in just two months by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is trying to move some 30,000 Sudanese refugees to settlements in safer areas of Uganda, according to a spokesman for the agency.

Its hands already full with the relocation of 24,000 refugees who fled a brutal rebel attack on Acholi-Pii refugee camp in northern Uganda on 5 August, UNHCR's already limited resources were stretched even further when the LRA attacked another settlement last Monday, displacing an additional 6,000 refugees, spokesman Kris Janowski told a press briefing in Geneva.

Monday's new attack on Maaji settlement, in north-western Uganda's Adjumani district, followed an assault in July, in which six refugees were killed. The latest attack on seven of some 24 sites in Maaji left at least one refugee woman injured. The marauding rebels abducted about 20 women to help them carry home their loot.

With 12 of the abductees still unaccounted for, the Maaji refugees have indicated they may try to return to southern Sudan unless they can be transported rapidly to safer locations, Mr. Janowski said. While most of the displaced come from seven sites in Maaji, refugees from the other sites - mainly women and children - are now also reported to be fleeing the settlement.

A team comprising UNHCR and other UN agencies operating in the area visited the displaced - temporarily housed in schools, shelters and clinics on the outskirts of the attacked settlement - and observed some cases of diarrhoea and respiratory diseases, the spokesman said. Health clinics report a huge increase in workload and fear a drug shortage if numbers keep increasing. Staff are now reluctant to remain overnight.

Rebels of the LRA have rampaged through northern Uganda in recent weeks, killing indiscriminately and looting villages in their path. Their 5 August raid on Acholi-Pii left more than 50 refugees dead and displaced the entire camp population, which fled into adjacent forest areas. The displaced refugees are currently being resettled in safer parts of the country.

According to UNHCR, more than 5,000 of them have been transferred to Kyangwali refugee camp, close to Lake Albert. Agency officials said the operation was moving ahead smoothly and that some 8,000 refugees are expected to have been resettled by Saturday.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and Ugandan officials are examining the feasibility of resettling the remaining Acholi-Pii refugees at other sites proposed by the government as there is no more room at Kyangwali.