UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The kidnapping and torture of children by a Uganda religious sect was high on the list of a new United Nations appeal on Thursday for the world’s forgotten tragedies.
The appeal seeks $1.7 billion for 14 crisis areas that have not captured headlines, 11 of them in Africa. Among the worst is for northern Uganda, which has 1.6 million homeless people, more than in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Of the 723 specific projects, the appeal asks for $158 million for northern Uganda.
Angelina Atyam whose daughter Charlotte, now 20, escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army after eight years of captivity as a sex slave. She returned home recently with two daughters.
“Others have died in wars, others died due to diseases, and of course many of them died due to sexual abuse,” Atyam, head of a parents group, told a news conference.
Uganda believes the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, whose only agenda is to overthrow the Kampala government, can be wiped out militarily. Every evening 44,000 children and adults move into towns and return to camps and villages in the morning, fearing abductions and war.
But Atyam said there had to be some kind of reconciliation as many of the LRA fighters were or had been kidnapped children, forced to take up guns and commit brutalities. The LRA is based in Sudan, which originally gave them weapons, but no one has been able to find their camps.
Among areas to benefit from the annual U.N. appeal are Russia’s Chechnya province. In Africa, sites include Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The U.N. relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, said there would be a separate appeal for Darfur, Iraq and Afghanistan, no longer considered neglected tragedies. He said Sierra Leone and Angola have been taken off the list since last year because of progress in resolving conflicts.
The campaign, launched in cooperation with 104 other aid agencies, has been significantly scaled back from last year, when $3.4 billion was sought for 21 hot spots but only $1.86 billion was received.
“This year there is a sharper and more focused appeal for a smaller number of countries,” Egeland told Reuters. “Assistance should be given according to need rather than popularity or logistic considerations.”