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UN Top Envoy Calls Northern Uganda Crisis 'Moral Outrage'  - 2004-10-22

The United Nations' top envoy overseeing humanitarian assistance, Jan Egeland, calls what is happening in northern Uganda the world's most neglected humanitarian emergency. At the same time he says progress in Darfur is undermined by the desperate need for security for aid workers.

Mr. Egeland said he focused on the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda during a briefing to the Security Council. "I asked, rhetorically perhaps, the Security Council, where else in the world have there been 20,000 kidnapped children? Where else in the world have large districts now had 90 percent of have population displaced? Where else in the world do you now have 80 percent of combatants children in the terrorist insurgency movement, the Lord's Resistance Army? For me, the situation is a moral outrage," he said.

Mr. Egeland said there is now a consensus on the Security Council that more needs to be done to end the crisis in Uganda, where the rebel Lord's Resistance Army has been raiding villages, kidnapping children and turning them into soldiers since the early 1980s.

Mr. Egeland said there are positive signals from the Ugandan government, including a new law for the internally displaced and an increase in government troops to protect humanitarian workers. "We hope, on the humanitarian side, that we are now seeing the beginning of an end to this 18-year endless litany of horrors where children are the fighters and the victims in northern Uganda. We hope to see an end because there is international attention and there is a peace process in Sudan which can have a positive spillover because the war in Sudan had a negative spillover earlier on the conflict in northern Uganda," he said.

In Darfur in southern Sudan, Mr. Egeland says aid workers are exceeding many of their original goals, reaching more than one-million people with food and basic humanitarian needs. But the U.N. diplomat says the goal post has moved and another million people are in need. Today, he says, deteriorating security is the number one constraint facing aid workers in the Darfur region. "We are waiting endlessly now to get the people on the ground. We are alone. We have 780 international and 5,500 local aid workers and we feel very alone for the moment. We need to have the African Union presence and they need to be funded by the donors to be able to deploy," he said.

Mr. Egeland voices concern that end of the rainy season will bring more fighting. He says North American, Europe and Australia have promised to give the African Union help in deploying troops, but he says the help is coming too slowly.