UNHCR wraps up one of world's biggest IDP operations in Uganda

News Stories, 6 January 2012

© UNHCR/S.Perham
Lucky David Wilson (in red) filming his music video with Achan Katherine in Unyama trading centre, a former IDP camp in northern Uganda.

GULU, Uganda, January 6 (UNHCR) Lucky David Wilson was born in a war zone in troubled times, but somehow manages to live up to his name.

As a boy, he fled attacks on his village of Guru Guru when northern Uganda became the frontline in the battle between the Ugandan army and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. Now 19, he has become a popular singer who uses music to advocate for peace and reconstruction in his homeland.

Wilson is a symbol of the new north, where relative peace has returned since the signing of a cease-fire agreement in 2006.

UNHCR opened an office the same year in the northern town of Gulu to manage 251 camps and provide protection to an estimated 1.84 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in 11 districts. Since then, more than 1.8 million have returned home on their own. To ensure sustainable returns, the UN refugee agency worked with the local authorities to provide basic services in home villages. This involved building community access roads, police posts, schools, health centres and clean water sources and putting in place a public administration infrastructure.

UNHCR also engaged agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, USAID, Care, World Vision and the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund II for longer-term development in areas of return.

"This is a happy day for all," said UNHCR Representative in Uganda, Kai Nielsen, as he closed the Gulu office last week. "Together with the government and aid agencies, we've managed to find solutions to one of the world's biggest IDP crises and help hundreds of thousands of Ugandans to go home."

While most of the IDPs made their own way home, some needed extra support. UNHCR and partners helped 11,600 of the most vulnerable IDPs and returnees by ensuring legal access to land and engaging the community to build huts and latrines. They were also given a start-up kit with blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, and kitchen sets, as well as an income safety net with livestock, seeds and tools.

Achan Katherine is one of the beneficiaries. Physically disabled and facing mobility problems, she has chosen to stay at the Unyama trading centre, a former IDP camp. UNHCR worked with the National Union for Disabled Persons in Uganda (NUDIPU) to assess the needs of people like her, and recently distributed wheelchairs to disabled people in Gulu district together with the Association for Volunteers in International Service (AVSI).

Wheelchairs, tricycles, white canes and crutches were designed and built locally by the Gulu Youth Development Association to create jobs, develop skills among the youth and to make the devices available to the greater community.

Katherine, who had been moving on her hands for years, was delighted with her new wheelchair. "Now I can move around my compound on my own and visit friends," she said in her native Acholi-Luo tongue. "Agencies need to continue this kind of help."

She was doubly excited when Lucky David turned up for the distribution and asked her to appear in the music video for his new hit song Roco Gang (Rebuilding Home). Her relatives and neighbours danced around her as he sang his song encouraging youth to support the vulnerable and elderly within their own communities.

"In our culture, when you do things like helping those who are disabled or having problems, the whole community is appreciative," said Lucky David, who is now based in Gulu town. "I'm so happy to be given the chance to spread these messages."

Today, some 30,000 Ugandans remain displaced in northern Uganda, living in four remaining camps, as well as former camps-turned-trading centres and transit sites. More than 6,000 have settled locally. Their need for assistance and protection has diminished as the communities work with aid agencies and the local government to develop and stabilize the region.

The Lord's Resistance Army, however, continues to terrorize civilians in neighbouring countries such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

By Stephanie Perham, in Gulu, Uganda

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

A Time Between: Moving on from Internal Displacement in Uganda

This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.

Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

On August 5, 2002, some 24,000 Sudanese refugees fled their homes in Achol-Pii camp in northern Uganda after a bloody attack by the Lord's Liberation Army rebel group. More than 60 refugees and many local villagers were killed in the attack.

Fearing further violence, displaced refugees trekked overnight to Lira, from where UNHCR trucked them to Kiryondongo, 100 km to the south-west. Kiryondongo site, a settlement already hosting 13,000 refugees, was temporarily extended to accommodate the Achol-Pii survivors until another site could be prepared.

Arriving families were initially accommodated at an expanded reception centre at Kiryondongo. After being registered, the new arrivals received UNHCR plastic sheeting, an emergency food ration and a 20 x 15-metre plot per family to build their own temporary shelter. UNHCR also distributed blankets and jerry cans. Additional latrines were also dug, new water pumps installed and a new emergency clinic was set up.

Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

Nyakabande: A haven in Uganda from the storm in North Kivu

The Nyakabande Transit Centre in southern Uganda was reopened by UNHCR and the Ugandan government in February 2012 to cope with a growing number of Congolese civilians crossing the border to escape general lawlessness in Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) North Kivu province. Initially designed to cope with 500 people, the transit centre has been swamped with new arrivals fleeing waves of violence since April between DRC government forces and fighters from the rebel M23 movement. UNHCR helped expand capacity to 11,000 people and arranged transport from the border, but the inflow placed a severe strain on the facilities. The centre has registered and assisted more than 51,000 people since January, most of them from North Kivu. At its peak, last July, the transit centre was hosting more than 10,000 refugees. In a bid to decongest the centre, UNHCR provided transport for more than 30,000 Congolese to the refugee settlement at Rwamwanja, some 350 kilometres to the north of Nyakabande. For many of those fleeing eastern DRC, Nyakabande was a beacon of hope and a haven from the storm convulsing their home region. The latest fighting in North Kivu in November has not had much of an impact, but people still arrive daily.

Nyakabande: A haven in Uganda from the storm in North Kivu

Uganda: A Father's TroublesPlay video

Uganda: A Father's Troubles

Forty-five-year-old Gabriel fled South Sudan with his wife and children to find safety in the UN compound in Bor. But, in April 2014, his wife was killed when an armed mob forced their way in, and now he is a single father to five children, seeking a better life in Uganda.
Uganda: Unique Approach For South SudanesePlay video

Uganda: Unique Approach For South Sudanese

Uganda has taken in thousands of South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict. The government is helping the new arrivals by giving them land on which to build a shelter.
Uganda: New Camp, New ArrivalsPlay video

Uganda: New Camp, New Arrivals

Recent fighting in eastern Congo has seen thousands of civilians flee to a new camp, Bubukwanga, in neighboring Uganda.