Uganda: UN agency says children's death rate is above emergency levels

29 September 2005

The mortality rates for hundreds of thousands of children displaced by the conflict in northern Uganda is above the emergency threshold, with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) facing a 46 per cent shortfall in the more than $40 million it is seeking to deal with the crisis, according to the agency's latest update report.

A UNICEF survey carried out with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) for the period January to July 2005, found that among the 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), 80 per cent of whom are women and children, the estimated crude mortality rate and the under-five mortality rate were above the respective emergency thresholds of one death per 10,000 per day and two deaths per 10,000 per day.

Surpassing the emergency threshold signifies the need for immediate "therapeutic" assistance to be provided to the more than 12,000 children who are classified severely malnourished, and "supplementary" food assistance for the more than 25,000 who are deemed malnourished in the country ravaged by 19 years of fighting between Ugandan Government forces and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

Along with emergency therapeutic and supplementary food responses, UNICEF treats more than 300,000 children under five for malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and other diseases in 70 per cent of the camps in order to help reduce child mortality, the report said. But an additional $9 million is needed to stem the food, nutrition and health crisis while another $10.2 million is required to cover the most basic education and water and sanitation requirements.

But due to continued threats of the LRA to donors and to children in the camps the agency continues to face an uphill battle in providing food, water and sanitation. UNICEF is now providing armoured vehicles in the Gulu and Kitgum Districts for humanitarian and aid workers travelling to the camps, and regular access is limited to about 30 per cent of the country's 200 IDP camps using armed military escorts.

The situation is even more dire for young children who have fears of being abducted by the LRA either as combatants or as "wives" for the officers. So far, 25,000 children have been taken by LRA, 7,500 of them girls, with 1,000 becoming "child-mothers" and conceiving children of their own during captivity, added the report.


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