UN-backed $41 million emergency appeal launched for flood-ravaged Ugandans

UN-backed $41 million emergency appeal launched for flood-ravaged Ugandans

A United Nations-backed flash appeal was launched today for $41 million to provide urgently-needed assistance some 300,000 flood-beleaguered Ugandans, including more than 100,000 already vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Since July, downpours have resulted in severe flooding across many parts of the country’s east, centre and north.

“We are here as one humanitarian community comprising United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations [NGOs], the donor community and, most importantly, the Government and people of Uganda, to call for support in addressing the devastation left behind by he rising tide of water,” said Theophane Nikyema, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, in Soroti, the largest town in the hardest-hit Teso sub-region.

Areas where a majority of households depend on subsistence agriculture and where basic services are operating beyond capacity were severely impacted. This was especially true of Teso, where neither the Government nor humanitarian organizations have the capacity to meet needs. In response, today’s appeal focuses primarily on delivering aid to this sub-region.

The $41 million appeal will provide assistance to some 50,000 households which have suffered damaged homes and are at risk for waterborne disease outbreaks due to severely damaged water and sanitation facilities. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the incidence of malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections has already surged by as much as 30 per cent.

Among the priorities set by the humanitarian community in Uganda for this appeal are stabilizing the initial food security situation, preventing disease outbreaks, bolstering capacity to respond to health emergencies, re-opening schools and ensuring access to primary education and providing urgently needed shelter and supplies.

While a two-month “hunger gap” is considered the norm, according to OCHA, this year it is expected to stretch into ten months, given the loss by many of their first season harvest and the delay in planting for the second season.

Heavy rains are forecast through November, which is likely to extend the scope of the flooding and further impact the already-affected population.

In a related development, the Uganda country team of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), an OCHA-convened body, today called for the continued commitment by the Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to the peace process to end their bloody two-decade-long conflict.

The Committee – comprising UN agencies, NGO consortia, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross/International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and the International Organization for Migration – appealed to both sides to return to the negotiating table.

“The humanitarian, security and human rights situation in northern Uganda has visibly improved since the end of aggressive activities heralded by the Cessation of Hostilities agreement of 26 August 2006,” the IASC said in a statement issued on the International Day of Peace.

Thousands of civilians have been killed or abducted since the LRA began its rebellion in 1986, and more than 1.5 million people have become refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Many of the people driven from their homes by the conflict have started returning to their villages of origin, with over half a million people already having returned while almost 400,000 have begun moving to transit nearer their homes. IASC noted that fewer than 1 million IDPs remain in the main camps.

“However,” the group said, “the linchpin in securing a peaceful, just and durable – and therefore more prosperous – future for all Ugandans is the conclusion of a final and lasting agreement between the Government and the LRA.”

The IASC also pledged its support in northern Uganda’s transition to a post-conflict environment where people can resume their normal lives and their livelihoods.