NAIROBI The United Nations World Food Programme today started to distribute food assistance to the survivors of a massacre that took place on Saturday night, 21 February. Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels attacked and burned Barlonyo camp for displaced people in Lira District, Langi Sub-region, in northern Uganda.
An estimated 4,800 people were living in the camp at the time of the brutal incident - one of the worst in several years. According to local authorities, about 200 people, mostly women and children, were hacked with machetes or burned to death.
"People are totally traumatized after what they have been through. They've also lost the little they had. They are sleeping under the trees. It's a terrible situation," said Ken Davies, WFP Country Director for Uganda, who has just visited victims of the attack.
Forty metric tonnes of food - enough for 5,000 people for a month - were transported today from Lira town to Ogur health centre located five km from Barlonyo camp, where most survivors have congregated. A lack of security in Lira town where WFP food stocks were stored prevented WFP from sending the food earlier. Since Monday, food commodities have been on standby to move to Ogur.
Following the incident, WFP provided 4.6 metric tonnes of food to Lira's District hospital for those injured in the attack.
Since September 2003, WFP has been regularly assisting more than 81,000 displaced persons providing 740 metric tonnes of food per month. Another 7.5 metric tonnes are also provided monthly to the supplementary and therapeutic feeding centres run by MSF at the hospital.
As a result of the massacre, the second major LRA attack in Lira within two weeks, the number of displaced persons in rural camps is increasing by the day. The potential for continuing ethnic violence persists. Violence broke out on Wednesday, 25 February, a day of mourning for massacre victims in Lira town. An unknown number of Acholi people were killed and others beaten. (The LRA is a rebel force largely composed of ethnic Acholi).
An additional 200,000 civilians who fear for their safety are reported to have gathered in camps in rural areas of Lira district. On Monday, WFP is sending an Emergency Response Team to register and assess the needs of the rural displaced, as well as plan a humanitarian intervention strategy.
Lira district is a very fertile area of Uganda where people would not normally need food assistance. Until now, WFP was assisting only the 81,000 displaced in the Lira municipal area and at the hospital feeding centres.
These tragic events and resulting population movement will increase the number of internally displaced people assisted by WFP in Uganda to over 1.6 million, putting additional pressure on its existing food resources. Stocks of corn-soya-blend, a highly nutritious element of the food ration, will be exhausted in May and cereals will run out in June. WFP urgently requires US$15 million for local purchases to cover all the food needs of 1.6 million displaced people through July.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
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