UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is saddened by the tragic death of six South Sudanese refugee children after an unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated today in Adjumani district's Maaji II settlement, some 450 km north of Uganda's capital, Kampala.
Four died instantly and eight were rushed to the Adjumani hospital. Two of them died while in hospital, three children are undergoing surgery, two are in stable condition and the status of the last one is still to be confirmed.
According to preliminary reports, a group of children dug up a rocket propelled grenade in the forest near the Maaji settlement, in Adjumani district. The ordnance went off at around 14:00pm as the children were playing with it.
UNHCR and partners are on the ground to provide assistance to the survivors and support to the families of the victims, in coordination with the Office of the Prime Minister and Lutheran World Federation, a UNHCR partner. Ambulances are on stand-by for any possible evacuation.
"I am shocked at this tragic loss of life and wish to send my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims," says Joel Boutroue, UNHCR Representative to Uganda, adding that an UXO was found in a refugee settlement in Uganda several weeks ago, in Lamwo district.
Boutroue added that this had not been an issue to date, but "back then I requested a review of the scope of the problem, keeping in mind that two male nationals had died in similar circumstances in the vicinity recently."
UNHCR informed high-level authorities of the issue and has called upon them to jointly and urgently explore the UXO issue, together with all concerned stakeholders. An information campaign will be launched in the near future to communicate the danger of UXOs around settlements.