Statement Attributable to UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy
NAIROBI / GENEVA, 30 April 2003 – I am deeply concerned by the recent breakdown of the limited cease-fire in northern Uganda and by reports in the past few days of renewed abductions of children and women by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Thousands of girls and boys snatched from their families remain unaccounted for. An estimated 20,000 children have been abducted since the conflict began – more than 5,000 in the last year alone. These children are often forced to commit atrocities against their own communities and to fight alongside their captors. They have been brutally used as human shields and sex slaves.
Every resurgence in the fighting brings renewed expressions of concern from governments and a wide range of national and international organizations. But these concerns have yet to be transformed into a constructive peace process.
This intensification of the armed conflict will make more vulnerable an already exhausted civilian population in an area plagued by conflict for the past 16 years. UNICEF fears that the increased fighting may further reduce access to the estimated 800,000 displaced people, causing a rapid and significant rise in child mortality and malnutrition.
Furthermore, the broadening of military operations is a setback to hopes for peace at this crucial time when efforts were underway to establish a peace process.
UNICEF urges both the Government of Uganda and the LRA to renew efforts for dialogue, agree on a cease-fire, and guarantee safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all of northern Uganda.
I call upon the parties to this conflict to do everything in their power to secure the immediate release and return of all of the abducted children and women.
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For further information, please contact:
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media, Tel: 212) 326 7269, email@example.com