By Our Reporter
KOTIDO, Uganda[SHIFTMEDIA ] The statistics regarding the souls that have perished in Karamoja region due to the looming hunger in recent months will remain unknown.
We are talking of over half a million people from the hard hit districts of Napak, Kotido, Abim, Kaabong, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, and Amudat.
A yet to be confirmed reports from Kotido district leadership indicates that 330 people had died due to hunger in Rengen sub-county, 316 from Kacheri subcounty, 88 from Nakapelimoro, 89 deaths from Kapeta and 68 from Kamor.
Though Cabinet resolved last week that UGX 135 billion be released to cater for the worrying food situation in Karamoja, nothing is yet on ground.
The Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja revealed that Government (Nile Post) had allocated shs 135 billion to address food crisis in Karamoja.
This money is supposed to cater for seedlings as well as purchase of 200 metric tones of food for the next three months.
But according to the Napak Woman Member of Parliament Hon Faith Nakut the situation is getting out of hand, leading to many deaths due to the government delays caused by bureaucratic tendencies and procurement procedures. ‘It is shameful for an agriculture-rich country to have people dying because of lack of food,’ said Nakut.
She says a lasting solution needs to be done to address the famine issue in Karamoja once and for all.
CSOs Attack Government
Scores of CSOs tasked with the promoting the Right to Adequate Food, trade, justice, agriculture and and environmental justice in Uganda led by the Food Rights Alliance Uganda (FRA) on Tuesday urged government to walk the talk.
Addressing the media at the FRA Secretariat in Namirembe, a Kampala suburb, M/s Agnes Kirabo the Executive Director Food Rights Alliance said government had neglected the people of Karamoja. ‘The famine and hunger issue in Karamoja is not new, we are beginning to presume it is planned. Government must enforce a lasting solution to the food insecurity in the entire country,’ said Karabo.
Kirabo said government needs to ensure equity of quality food provision for all Ugandans.
The consortium of CSOs that included FRA, SEATINI Uganda (South and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiation Institute), World Vision Uganda , Consumer Consent Uganda , were addressing the escalating food insecurity and malnutrition in Karamoja sub region and across the country.
Tony Ojok from World Vision said that the latest data from the Integrated Food Security Phase classification (IPC) indicates that all nine districts in the Karamoja region are classified in the IPC phase 3.
‘About 40% of the population (518,000) are facing high levels of acute food insecurity since March 2022,’ said Ojok.
Address structural issues
M/s Jane Nalunga the Executive Director SEATINI -Uganda called upon government to immediately address the underlying structural issues related to adding value in inputs, production, processing, value addition and marketing.
‘The greatest challenge Uganda is facing at the moment is the huge debt crisis. Instead of injecting money on agriculture government is busy paying debts. Government needs to address the entire value chain in agriculture,’ said Nalunga.
Nalunga said government needs to prioritize mitigation of hunger because it is cheaper to mitigate hunger than to address the hunger crisis.
Fountain of Honor called to Act
‘Uganda is like a family that has a head just like a home, and the head of a home is the father. When things are not right, the head of the home, for this case the President must come out to sort the mess in the house,’ said Henry Richard Kimera the Chairperson Food Rights Alliance Uganda.
The tough talking Kimera, who acts as Executive Director Consumer Consent Uganda lashed out at President Museveni for keeping quite as scores died of hunger in Karamoja.
‘When your house is not in order, as a head of the home you don’t delegate a neighbor to address the crisis,’ he said. He said that what affects the farmer will degenerate back to the consumer.
Kimera said all that is donated right from seeds as inputs to food must be of good quality that meets the desired human consumption.
‘Civil Society and other partners should pay critical attention to the quality and quantity of the foods being distributed to establish whether such foods are fit for human consumption,’ he said. He also noted that critical attention should also be paid to the value for money to ensure proper accountability.
Experts speak out
Experts with known history of the Karamoja region note that the crisis in the region is complex one of. They say no form of humanitarian assistance will solve the Karamoja crisis.
‘All that is lacking in Karamoja is exposure, mindset change and good leadership,’ notes Prof. Ndebesa Mwambutysa.
The issue of insecurity in the Karamoja regions needs to be addressed is if sanity is to prevail.
According Hon Faith Nakut most parts of Karamoja like Napak are fertile enough to handle agricultural production. ‘We are productive both in terms of livestock and agriculture. ‘The people of Karamoja just need to be empowered to become self reliant, because no amount of food aid will stop the famine in Karamoja,’ she said in an interview.
Drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition in Uganda
1)Food production predominantly in the hands of family farmers
2) Food Loss and water
3) Poor quality culture in the Agri-Food System
4) Limited investment in addressing Climate Change
5) Non- Functioning Food Markets
6) Low Productivity in Agriculture
7) Absence of National Strategic Food Reserves
8) Urbanization and the Demand for Food and Basic Amenities
9) Failure to leverage on the Demographic Dividend to transform the Agri- Food System
10) Persistent hunger among school going children
11) Poor Policy, Legal and Institutional Architecture for food and nutrition
12) Low Investment in Agriculture and Food Security