July 27, 2013

Govt Tells Drought Hit Areas To Use Food Sparingly

Only about 1,500 people in famine hit Karamoja region are being targeted with food support, according to the minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees.

This is just a small fraction out of the 530,000 people at risk of starvation following the long drought in most parts of the country.

Relief Preparedness and Refugees  Minister Hilary Onek
Relief Preparedness and Refugees Minister Hilary Onek

Minister Hilary Onek in a statement on Friday noted that 60 districts country wide are severely affected by famine. However, he describes the situation as one of concern but not insurmountable.

Reports indicate that over 40 people have died in Karamoja with half of the deaths occurring in Kaabong district. Sub counties that have recorded deaths include Kamion, Lodiko, Kapedo and Lolelia in Kaabong and Napak districts.

In other parts of Uganda affected by food shortages, the government encourages people to use available food stuffs sparingly. The current food shortage in the affected areas is projected to persist through August, September and October before it eases in November this year when the next harvest is expected.

The situation is being blamed on the abnormal heavy rains that caused floods, water logging and destruction of crops. Thereafter there was a severe and prolonged drought that scorched the remaining crops between late May and July 2013.

The minister said parts of Teso, Lango, Acholi, West Nile, Elgon, Busoga and Central, Bunyoro, South Western and Rwenzori experienced hailstorms leading to crop failure.

Rose Nakabugo, the Commissioner in charge of Disaster Preparedness and Management, says together with aid agencies such as the International Organisation for Immigration, UNFPA, WHO, FAO, WFP and Save the Children, government has offered emergency food supplies.

Malnourished children are being treated at therapeutic feeding centres. Bags of maize, cow peas and tins of cooking oil are being given to the extremely vulnerable households that have child headed families and the elderly.

Onek says that as a longer term intervention, the Office of the Prime Minister is currently developing a multi sectoral community resilience plan. This is intended to build resilience an adaptive capacity of communities in Karamoja to the effects of climate change and related disasters.

Alternative schemes for the affected population such as food for work; voucher for work, and direct cash transfer linked to livelihoods will be encouraged through partners like World Food Programme.

Onek also stated that government shall distribute fast maturing food stuffs like sorghum and bean seeds, and restocking of cattle will continue as alternative means of survival.

It was revealed that an arrangement similar to the Karamoja Multi-Purpose cooperative under the department of Karamoja Affairs in the areas around Lake Opeta and Lake Bisinia will be explored.

This will enable districts in Karamoja produce food throughout the year and about 10,000 hectares of land will be gazetted  as a pilot irrigation scheme.

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