February 06, 2004

Ongoing violence limits relief efforts to thousands of displaced people

Lira/New York, February 6, 2004 - A team from the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated more than 60 wounded yesterday after an attack Wednesday on Abiya, a camp for displaced people near the northern Ugandan town of Lira, in which 51 people were killed. The injured civilians were brought to the hospital in Lira a day after the attack, after spending the night hiding in the surrounding area.

Two doctors and a nurse from MSF in Lira assisted the hospital staff in treating the wounded. MSF also provided drugs and dressing materials. Most of the men had gun-shot and hand grenade wounds while most of the women and children had severe burns received when the huts they were hiding in were burnt down. Other people had machete wounds to their heads and bodies.

The attack illustrates how insecure and volatile the situation is in the area. Civilians are subject to large-scale violence, killings, mutilations, abductions and terror. Local officials estimate that 200,000 to 300,000 people have been displaced in Lira district, fleeing the fear and insecurity in their villages. Because of these unpredictable attacks and ambushes, access to the people living in about 20 camps outside Lira is very limited for aid workers, and people living there have limited access to food, water and health care and are at greater risk of being attacked. MSF is constantly attempting to reach the camps outside Lira to provide medical assistance to people there.

MSF has been working in Lira district since December last year providing health care and water and sanitation facilities to the displaced. The 120 bed therapeutic feeding centre for severely malnourished children has been running at full capacity since the opening in January and another 1,500 moderately malnourished children receive supplementary feeding.

The war between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan army has been going on for 18 years, but fighting has increased since last year. Besides Lira, MSF also provides assistance to displaced people in Gulu, Soroti and Katakwi districts.