(Formerly called IRIN) Journalism from the heart of crises

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Almost one million at risk in Karamoja

Men share a calabash of blood gotten from a slaughtered bull. There is acute food shortage in Karamoja.
Vincent Mayanja/IRIN

At least 900,000 people in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda, are facing severe food insecurity due to four consecutive years of failed rains and poor harvests, says the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net).



"Overall, Karamoja continues to experience widespread high food insecurity," FEWS Net observes in its March update.



At least 81 percent of the estimated 1.1 million food-insecure people in Uganda are in Karamoja, according to the agency.



The UN World Food Programme (WFP) told IRIN it planned to restart food distributions in the region in April as people had used up the little that was produced during the last harvest.



“Erratic rainfall in 2009 has indeed had an effect on the main harvest in Karamoja, and as such WFP maintained its general food distribution operations for nearly 90 percent of the population up until December," Stanlake Samkange, WFP country director, said. "However, according to a December 2009 Health, Nutrition and Food Security assessment, the remaining yields from the harvest were predicted to last up to three months; WFP therefore plans to begin targeted food assistance in April to meet the critical gaps."



Musa Ecweru, the minister in charge of disaster and refugees, told IRIN the situation was dire and that the government, under the Prime Minister’s Office, had been distributing food in the region for the past two months.



“The food situation is bad, warranting us to intervene and that is why we have been supporting these people for the past two months; even as I talk now there is food being distributed in the region and this started immediately WFP expressed some gaps in their resource[s],” Ecweru said.












[Uganda] Pokot elders discuss disarmament in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda. [Date picture taken: June 2006]

Selon le réseau du système d’alerte précoce, sur les 1,1 million de personnes que les estimations considèrent en situation d’insécurité alimentaire en Ouganda, 81 pour cent se trouvent à Karamoja (photo d’archives)
IRIN
[Uganda] Pokot elders discuss disarmament in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda. [Date picture taken: June 2006]
http://www.irinnews.org/
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Près d’un million de personnes menacées à Karamoja
[Uganda] Pokot elders discuss disarmament in Karamoja, northeastern Uganda. [Date picture taken: June 2006]


Photo: IRIN
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, 81 percent of the estimated 1.1 million food-insecure people in Uganda are in Karamoja (file photo)

According to FEWS Net, Karamoja and parts of northern Uganda - Pader and Kitgum districts - are the exception to the general food security observed in most parts of the country.



Samkange said WFP would introduce a more targeted package of assistance to meet the specific needs of the most affected people in the semi-arid region.



“An emergency operation will target the most vulnerable and food-insecure people, some 300,000 people," he said. "Those people who also require support but are less vulnerable will be targeted through conditional food transfers that aim not only to meet the immediate food gap but also contribute to longer-term food security through specific livelihood projects.”



Samkange added that these activities would be scaled up to eventually target another 300,000-400,000 people; both interventions will commence in April.



FEWS Net stated: "Normal household food security is observed in most of the country, supported by a combination of adequate food stocks from above-normal 2009 second season harvest, market purchases and exchanges through social safety networks."



Higher-than-normal 2009 second-season rains extended into February and merged with the March 2010 onset of first-season rains, causing rivers to overflow and swamps to fill in eastern Uganda, it said.



FEWS Net added: "The floods have led to land inundation, population displacements and damage to property in Butaleja and Bududa districts, with 94 deaths confirmed and 260 people missing in Bududa. The floods have also damaged roads and communication links and limited movement in many areas, thereby hampering any recovery efforts."



There is also a desire to shift away from continued relief distribution in Karamoja towards more sustainable recovery activities that badly need donor support, said WFP.



"Handing out food will not improve the underlying causes of food insecurity,” which, Samkange said, include illiteracy levels especially among girls; poor access to basic health services; bad infrastructure and a narrow set of livelihood options.



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