IDPs in Northern Uganda
by Humanitarian Practice Network January 2007

This edition of Humanitarian Exchange features articles on the changing context for IDPs in Northern Uganda, and the challenges confronting the humanitarian community in responding to it.

Three years ago, Jan Egeland, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), described the situation in Northern Uganda as ‘the most forgotten humanitarian crisis in the world’. But by early 2006, despite an increase in humanitarian assistance to the troubled area, the majority of the population of the Acholi sub-region remained displaced, living in squalid conditions in some 200 overcrowded camps, reliant on food aid, their traditional livelihood patterns and clan systems destroyed. Civilians, caught in the middle of the fighting between government forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army, enjoyed little or no protection in or around these camps, and humanitarian assistance to them was often curtailed due to the poor security situation. On his last mission before stepping down as ERC, Egeland returned to Northern Uganda in November 2006. Conditions there, he said, were ‘totally unacceptable and intolerable’.

Since August 2006, a truce has brought about an uneasy calm across Northern Uganda, and peace talks in Juba, South Sudan, provide a glimmer of hope for the nearly two million people affected by the conflict. Increased security and a government programme of ‘decongestion’ began to improve the conditions for IDPs in many camps, and there was talk of returning home. Many feel that Northern Uganda is at a crossroads, and that the humanitarian community must be ready to respond, whatever the outcome of the negotiations.

The articles in this issue of Humanitarian Exchange investigate key issues of concern for the IDPs of Northern Uganda, including protection and livelihoods, to inform strategy development in response to this changing context. Thought-provoking articles challenge traditional approaches to assistance in camps, and explore the role of the government and the international community in providing, not only key services, but also law and order, to bring about stability and ensure protection for the people of Northern Uganda.

This edition of Humanitarian Exchange also includes a range of general policy and practice articles. We look at different approaches and methodologies for assessing and planning for food security, health and psychosocial interventions, the role of information technology in coordinating and planning humanitarian action, new thinking about the return and reintegration of refugees and issues around effectiveness, accountability and inter-agency collaboration. As always, we welcome your feedback on our publications, and on the issues we cover. Please send your comments or suggestions to hpn@odi.org.uk.