OCTOBER 22, 2009: Elderly Languish in IDP Camps

Three Years On, Elderly Still Languish In Uganda's Camps

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

By Ben Simon

GEREGERE CAMP, Uganda, Oct 22, 2009 (AFP) - When the Lord's Resistance Army began raiding their village in northern Uganda's Pader district in 2002, Nicholas Okot, his wife and seven children fled to a nearby camp for safety.

Now his able-bodied family members have left him.

Once peace was restored in the region, his children left the camp to the restart their lives on the neighbouring farmland, but Okot, 77, remains in the camp, coiled on non-functioning legs in a tiny thatched hut, unable to return to his ancestral home less than a kilometre down the road.

"I have been telling my sons since last year that I want to return. They keep promising me they will do it, but they are probably doing something else," he told AFP.

At an ongoing African Union summit in Kampala, member states are expected to sign a first-of-its-kind convention that will codify a nation's responsibilities to its Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

According to a preliminary draft of the convention seen by AFP, countries will be required to provide special assistance for IDPs with special needs, including the elderly.

In Uganda, three and half years on from the last LRA attacks, IDP camps are rapidly emptying, but it is the most helpless, and especially the elderly, who fear the longed-for return home may never happen.

"We've got many cases where younger people go and say they are going to come back for their loved ones. And then they go away and start doing some activities and maybe the challenges that they are facing at home make things difficult to come back," said Irene Achen, who works for the German organisation Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund in Pader.

At the Geregere IDP camp, where Okot lives, the population has reduced from 9,700 in 2006, to less than 1,000.

Across northern Uganda more than 70 percent of those who fled their homes because of the LRA have gone back, but there is no strategy to help the physically weakest IDPs move home.

"Clearly there has been a huge amount of progress," John Holmes, United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said after visiting two camps in Pader.

"But there are still people who have not been able to go home, particularly vulnerable individuals, and we need to find ways of solving the problem finally," he added.

The expected AU convention can provide a solid framework for dealing with future displaced people, Holmes said, but added that, "a lot of things that framework talks about have been happening here already."...

For the full story, please see: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/SNAA-7X43UG?OpenDocument