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Uganda: ICRC activities January to March 2008

08-05-2008 Operational Update

The ICRC is active in various regions of Uganda, working with national, regional and local authorities, as well as the Uganda Red Cross Society, helping internally displaced persons, reuniting families, improving living conditions and promoting international humanitarian law.

 Overview  

In northern Uganda, the ICRC assisted about 500,000 internally displaced people (IDP), facilitating their return to their areas of of origin. In particular, the ICRC strived to reinforce the economic security of the most vulnerable and supported the efforts of the health and water authorities to provide better services. Countrywide, including Karamoja, the ICRC maintained dialogue with the relevant authorities concerning respect for the civilian population and of persons deprived of liberty. The ICRC also promoted the teaching of international humanitarian law to the armed and police forces, as well as to university students.

 
Northern Uganda 
 

 Improving living conditions  

Following the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of August 2006, an ever-increasing number of people have returned (or begun the process of returning) to their villages of origin. Thousands of others are still living in IDP camps, but enjoy increased access to arable land.

By means of various water, sanitation, health and other aid programmes, the ICRC have improved living conditions in the four Acholi districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Pader and Amuru, liaising closely with other humanitarian agencies to avoid duplication of services.

    

 Protection activities  

The ICRC continued to maintain a confidential dialogue with arms carriers and the relevant authorities to improve respect for the civilian population.

    

 Economic security  

The ICRC:

  • provided more than 70,000 households (about 400,000 people) living in 111 sites (mother camps, transit homes and villages of origin) in the Acholi region with agricultural tools and essential household items. The beneficiaries, representing about 40% of IDPs living in the four Acholi districts, also received 17 kg of groundnut seeds and a choice of 12.5 kg of beans, 10 kg of rice or 4 kg of sesame seeds. Relief support included basic hygiene materials (soap, sanitary pads and pants for women) and school kits;

  • provided emergency assistance to over 850 households (some 4,700 people) in 64 sites after they lost their belongings following fire outbreaks;

  • supported new micro-economic initiatives and cash-for-work projects which enabled vulnerable IDPs and returnees'families to acquire farming and building implements, such as pedal pumps for irrigation, oil presses and brick presses.

 Health  

ICRC health programmes allowed access to essential, preventive and curative healthcare for about 120,000 IDPs, returnees and residents living in the areas covered by 14 ICRC-supported health centres. ICRC support to the health authorities included training of staff, provision of medical supplies (drugs, surgical kits) and assistance with rehabilitating healthcare buildings.

The ICRC:

  • donated assorted drugs and medical supplies to 14 health centres;

  • trained 212 traditional birth attendants on antenatal care and safe delivery;

  • carried out 61 medical evacuations from camps to referral hospitals and health centres;

  • assisted the participation of 145 people in training sessions for village health teams.

    

 Water and sanitation  

Through its water, sanitation, hygiene and habitat programmes, the ICRC improved access to safe water supplies (for drinking and other domestic use) and further improved hygiene conditions in the IDP camps.

The ICRC:

  • drilled three new boreholes and fitted them with manual pumps, and rehabilitated 17 other water points;

  • supported the construction of 58 latrine stands;

  • carried out, with the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS), weekly hygiene promotion sessions for volunteers in 15 IDP camps.

 
Karamoja 
 

 Improving living conditions  

The ICRC maintained discussions with the relevant authorities concerning the protection of victims of armed violence.

The ICRC also:

  • contributed an ICRC surgeon who performed 55 operations in Matany Hospital, Moroto;

  • lectured on international humanitarian law to 28 Ugandan Army officers;

  • funded the construction of the URCS’s new office in Moroto district.

 
Western Uganda 
 

 Improving living conditions  

In cooperation with the URCS, the ICRC assessed and responded to the needs of recently arrived Congolese refugees in Nakivale camp, with a particular focus on re-establishing family contacts and registering unaccompanied minors.

 
Nationwide 
 

 Improving the living conditions of people deprived of liberty  

In accordance with its internationally recognized mandate and agreement with the Ugandan authorities, the ICRC continued to visit places of detention to monitor the treatment, judicial guarantees and material conditions of people detained in connection with internal conflict, disturbances or national security. Observations and recommendations were discussed in confidence with the authorities.

The ICRC:

  • carried out 30 visits to 29 places of detention, including military barracks, police stations and prisons;

  • delivered resource items (such as blankets, mats, games and recreational equipment, seeds, cups, envelopes and stamps) to detainees in four prisons and three military barracks;

  • improved, with the support of the Uganda Prisons Service, access to safe water for detainees in one prison.

    

 Restoring family links for refugees  

The ICRC further developed the capacity of the Uganda Red Cross Society to add ress needs in re-establishing family links throughout Uganda and neighbouring countries for those separated by armed conflict. In particular:

  • 435 Red Cross messages were collected and distributed;

  • three Congolese unaccompanied minors were reunited with their families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;

  • 29 unaccompanied minors were registered.

 Reinforcing preventive action  

Under the 2005 agreement with the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF), the ICRC promoted the integration of international humanitarian law (IHL) standards within military doctrine. Highlights included the attendance of:

  • 89 UPDF medical personnel at Singo Military Training School in sessions on the ICRC mandate and activities and IHL principles;

  • 28 UPDF officers at a three-day basic IHL course in Moroto district (in Karamoja region);

  • 230 UPDF soldiers and Local Defence Unit guards in northern Uganda at various sessions on IHL and the ICRC mandate and activities;

  • two UPDF officers in a course (in San Remo, Italy) on the Law of Armed Conflict.

Under the 2005 agreement with the Uganda Police Force (UPF), the ICRC held a workshop with UPF instructors (previously trained by the ICRC) on the incorporation of international human rights law and humanitarian principles in standard basic training for recruits. In addition, the ICRC supported the attendance of 365 Special Police Constables and Anti-Stock Theft Unit personnel in sessions on international human rights law and humanitarian principles, and the ICRC mandate and activities.

Parliamentary committees on defence and internal affairs incorporated ICRC comments providing extra protection into the draft Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Bill.

The ICRC established contacts wi th the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) to introduce international humanitarian law into its curriculum. The IUIU may become the fourth university to teach IHL, after Makerere University, Kampala International University and Uganda Christian University, Mukono.

Forty-one journalists attended an ICRC-supported workshop on IHL in Kampala, and the ICRC was also invited to make a presentation on IHL to another group of journalists in a seminar organized by the BBC.

    

 Reinforcing the Uganda Red Cross Society  

The ICRC provided further financial and technical support to the URCS, such that the National Society was able to:

  • provide volunteers to participate in ICRC relief operations and hygiene promotion sessions;

  • support Kenyan Refugees in Mulanda Transit Centre (where the British Red Cross, through the ICRC, made available 1,000 non-food items kits).