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UN agency begins feeding 500,000 drought victims in north-east Uganda

UN agency begins feeding 500,000 drought victims in north-east Uganda

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today started distributing food to 500,000 people in Uganda’s poorest region, Karamoja, where families are reeling from the effects of a third drought in six years, after the single rainy season from June to August fell well below average.

“People can’t buy enough food to survive,” WFP Country Director Tesema Negash said.

“The rains generally fail every five years, but since 2000, we’ve seen a drought every second year. The effects are devastating, especially for those who are most vulnerable –pregnant and nursing mothers and young children.”

A considerable drop in the crop of the staple sorghum had led to price rising beyond the reach of many people.

Even without the drought, people in Karamoja in Uganda’s north-east struggle to eke out a living. A food security and vulnerability analysis undertaken by WFP, the Government and other partners in November 2005 found that Karamoja has Uganda’s highest percentage of households eating once a day or less – 60 per cent.

Lack of adequate food is the leading cause of mortality in the region which has the highest rate in the country of severe and moderate malnutrition among children. Results of a nutrition survey in September by the Ministry of Health with WFP and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) support showed that acute malnutrition rate among children under five in Karamoja is 13.4 per cent.

Rations for drought-affected families are intended to provide 50 per cent of the minimum daily energy requirement of 2,100 kilocalories – the gap between the food that families can produce themselves or buy in markets and their basic needs.

Until July, WFP will provide 23,000 metric tons of food for families in Karamoja at a cost of nearly $12 million. In July, the first early maturing vegetables and beans should be ready for harvest. The main harvest of sorghum comes in September and October.

In 2007, WFP needs $127 million to provide relief and recovery assistance to internally displaced people and refugees in Uganda, as well as drought-affected people in Karamoja. The agency hopes to assist 3.5 million people with its partners, including the Government.