The long-running Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in northern Uganda has displaced an estimated two million people, more than 1.7 million of them living in marginal conditions in 188 heavily congested camps in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, Apac and Adjumani. In September 2005, the insurgents expanded their activities in southern Sudan and northeastern DRC. Following the indictment of its five top commanders by the International Criminal Court, the LRA attacked humanitarian workers and foreigners in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan in October and November.
Limited access in the districts of Gulu, Pader and Kitgum remained a major constraint to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Only 15 of 105 IDP settlements were accessible without military escorts due to LRA attacks. An estimated 35,000 “night commuters”, mainly children, in the Acholi sub region continued the daily routine of commuting between their rural homes and adjacent towns to escape abduction. In the Teso and southern Lango subregions, relative peace contributed to the voluntary return of an estimated 400,000 IDPs. However, in the Karamoja sub-region, low literacy levels, poor pastoral practices and long-term neglect by successive governments in service provision and development have contributed to a high degree of food insecurity and environmental risk. This is compounded by a tradition of inter-clan and cross-border cattle-rustling.
- Improve access to IDPs, refugees and other vulnerable groups for delivery of humanitarian assistance
- Strive to improve protection for all vulnerable groups, with an emphasis on children and women, in accordance with international and national human rights laws and humanitarian principles
- Support improved provision and delivery of comprehensive and timely humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, respecting their dignity, in a sustainable manner
- Support efforts to improve livelihoods and coping mechanisms among IDPs and refugees, to promote self-reliance in camps/settlements and return areas
In partnership with UNHCHR, the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the government, OCHA supported the creation and establishment of human rights promotion and protection sub-committees at the district level to support the promotion of human rights through education and information dissemination activities.
OCHA also supported an IDP camp decongestion working group through drafting policy and procedures. Decongestion is vital to improving overcrowded camp situations by providing adequate basic services to smaller camps and places of origin. This process has relieved heavily congested camps and promoted somewhat improved conditions for displaced people.
OCHA advocated with the government to increase access to all IDP camps through the provision of more military escorts. As a result, the army made more soldiers available to escort humanitarian agencies, while OCHA and the UN Department of Safety and Security coordinated their use. It was not possible to engage the LRA in discussions on humanitarian access.
The office worked on sensitising district authorities on the National IDP Policy, formulated in 2004, and their responsibilities under its terms. OCHA also contributed to the drafting of a human rights and protection strategy, which provides the basis for an enhanced coordinated response key concerns, including Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and night commuting children.
To improve coordination, OCHA maintained field offices in Gulu, Kitgum, Lira, Soroti, Pader and Katakwi. This expanded presence strengthened humanitarian coordination structures at the district level and advocacy with local authorities on issues related to the protection of civilians.
At national and field level, OCHA provided the humanitarian community with basic coordination tools and services, including coordination fora, WWW database, mapping services, policy development and advocacy support.
In November, the UNCT embraced the cluster approach in four gap areas: water and sanitation, protection, health, and early recovery. OCHA, in support of the Humanitarian Coordinator, facilitated discussions between the country team and the inter-agency Internal Displacement Division, as well as follow-up actions, including the revision of CAP 2006.
OCHA continued to support the HC, UNCT, IASC, donors and OCHA headquarters through humanitarian updates, briefs, development of the CAP and facilitation of various headquarters and donor missions. Monthly sit-reps and updates served to keep the humanitarian community informed of key issues. Several joint assessments were undertaken to provide baseline data on the humanitarian situation, and vulnerability mapping pursued to represent this clearly, in order to allow for better decision-making.
Poor humanitarian access continued to constrain activities in 2005, but OCHA and other humanitarian partners helped reduce the number of night commuters in the North in the latter half of the year. The number of night commuters, primarily children, fell from 27,000 in August to 23,000 in December, and continues to decline, as a result of improved security. The OCHA office assisted, in particular, through monitoring, advocacy and continued support to coordination mechanisms.
Implementation of the National IDP Policy was limited in 2005 due to capacity and resource constraints on the part of district authorities. OCHA supported the establishment of the coordination mechanisms envisaged in the IDP policy, with minimal government involvement. At the district level, OCHA continued to support the functioning of the coordination mechanisms and the establishment of sector working groups in all the conflict-affected districts where it had a presence. Here again, government leadership was limited.
Improved coordination on security, which included strong input from OCHA, allowed for more sustained surveillance of the humanitarian situation by all partners involved. Advocacy with the army and other government officials resulted in increased access by IDPs to land around IDP settlements, up from two to three kilometres in the first quarter to between two and five kilometres in the third quarter.
Approximately 400,000 IDPs voluntarily returned to their home areas in 33 sub-counties in Lango and Teso regions, with the support of return packages promoting self-reliance. OCHA contributed to this process in advocating for provision of return packages, facilitating the return, and monitoring the integration process.