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Uganda: ICRC operations, resumed in 2004, set to grow in 2005

14-04-2005 Operational Update

Following the gradual resumption of its field operations in Uganda in 2004, the ICRC has steadily increased its field deployment and level of activities. The following is a report on the ICRC's operations in Uganda during 2004 and the first part of 2005.

The ICRC has been active in Uganda since 1979. Following the killing of six ICRC staff members in April 2001 in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the ICRC suspended the activities of its sub-delegations in Uganda. It maintained a reduced expatriate presence in Kampala, concentrating on support to the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS).

Presently, ICRC activities in Uganda are based on the provisions of the agreement it signed with the Government of the Republic of Uganda. This agreement provides ICRC with the frame to assist and protect, according to its mandate, as a neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian intermediary the victims of international and non-international conflict situations, as well as situations of internal disturbance or tension. 

In response to the escalating needs in northern and eastern Uganda, the ICRC gradually resumed field activities during 2004, focusing on protecting and assisting people affected by internal armed conflict. Meanwhile, it continues to seek further clarification on the killing of its staff. In this respect, a visit to Uganda by its Delegate General for Africa took place in March 2005.

ICRC maintains regular contact with the different authorities at district level in order to keep abreast of the situation and inform them about ICRC activities. In order to avoid duplication or misunderstanding, the institution is coordinating its activities with the Uganda Red Cross Society as well as with other humanitarian organisations, and is actively participating in the various coordination mechanisms.

In spite of expected peace talks, t he civilian population remains apprehensive and the humanitarian situation still poses major challenges in terms of protection and assistance. Internally Displaced People (IDPs) living in camps suffer from a range of health problems and cannot safely engage in trade, agriculture, hunting or gathering resources such as firewood or local wild food. Diseases such as diarrhoea, respiratory illnesses, malaria and skin infections are common in the camps, and outbreaks of cholera and dysentery are a constant threat. Another major health concern is HIV/AIDS: in the camps in Acholiland (Gulu, Kitgum and Pader), the HIV rate is over twice the national average.