Raids stymie relief efforts in Uganda famine area

An appalling story of man's in inhumanity to man comes from the famine-stricken Karamoja area of Uganda, where 560,000 women and children reportedly are starving.

All the United Nations relief agencies in the area have suspended humanitarian activities -- because of the buildup of what they described as "an impossible security situation."

They blame armed raids by local Uganda militia.

The driver of a Save the Children Fund truck was machine-gunned to death and his truck, crammed with food and medical supplies, was stolen Four employees of a World food Campaign program were wounded when their truck was attacked. A truck belonging to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was stolen by members of the militia.

The agencies have given the ruling military of Uganda terms for resuming relief operations. They say the it must neutralize the militia in Karamoja and must make an effort to improve security.

Well-organized parties of raiders have virtually stripped the area clean of cattle, grain, and goods. The UNICEF Save the Children Fund rehabilitation centers, which have been forced to shut down, serve 1,000 mothers and children each.

About 40 tons of cereals, four tons of oil, and three tons of dried skim milk had been distributed monthly through CARE and the World Food Program. These fed 560,000 people on the verge of starvation.

Some 4.5 tons of medical supplies and 100 tons of high-protein foods have been sent to each center.

"but delivery of aid is tortuous," Martin Getsendanner of UNICEF in Nairobi told this reported. "The dirt roads are in bad condition. There are not enough lorries and Land Rovers [trucks]. Workers have to deal with the constant danger of raids.

"The depth of th efamine, in fact, is largely blamed on the raiders -- ex-Amin soldiers and bands of lawless Ethiopians, Somalis, and Kenyans, who have stolen virtually every one of the half-a-million cattle once owned by the Karamojans."

"Their markets for cattle are international -- some go through Tanzania some through Kenya -- and the weapons have escalted from spears to Russian AK-47 machine guns and mortars. Several lorry drivers belonging to CARE and other aid workers have been killed, and in the most recent raid, 1 200 bags of maize were stolen from a World Food Program warehouse in Soroti," he said.

One of the big problems is that the Uganda, government evidently has lost control. The "militia" is made up largely of self-appointed gangs of thugs.

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