Hunger strikes Ugandans as Gardens dry up
Some 1.3 million people are going hungry countrywide and the number was projected to increase by end of last month. Feeding such an increasing large number of starving people on relief food appears unsustainable.
When State minister for Agriculture Christopher Kibanzanga revealed on November 3 that Ugandans in more than 45 districts were starving, for people in Isingiro District, this was merely repeating what was established long ago.
Mr Macarius Kyomya, a resident of Kyanyanda village in Bukanga County, Isingiro District says the minister’s pronouncement did not say anything new.
Famine has ravaged the western Uganda district for months following the long dry spells that failed crop harvests in the two rainy seasons. Thus Mr Kibanzanga’s revelation, according to Mr Kyomya, only served to highlight their plight and eventual emergency food aid.
“Government took long to come to our rescue,” says Kyomya, who has been growing and selling matooke on a large scale but his plantation is now scorched by the sun. He lamented that if the government had responded swiftly, there would be no death resulting from hunger.
In early October, some deaths were reported in Isingiro due to malnutrition and hunger.
“They gave us food [later in emergency aid] but it was very little. We got two kilogrammes of posho (maize floor) and two mugs of beans each,” Kyomya told Daily Monitor.
Mr Kyomya is part of an estimated 1.3 million Ugandans who were, according to Mr Kibanzanga, in need of emergency food aid by November 3.
Similar reports from semi-arid Karamoja sub-region also indicate that some people are feeding on leaves of wild plants.
As of now, the number of starving people, could have increased, according to Disaster Preparedness State minister Musa Ecweru. But he could not avail the figures to back up his projection. He said he was in the field “sensitising” people how to survive the hunger.
“What is clear is that the situation is bad and getting worse in the next months,” ç says. “But our first target is to distribute food to vulnerable groups like child-headed families, the sick and the elderly.”
The most affected families are those whose breadwinners are living with HIV/AIDS which requires proper feeding before taking the daily antiviral medicines. Without proper nutrition, Mr Mr Ecweru says, HIV positive persons have told him it has proved hard to adhere to their daily drug prescriptions.
“We are confronted by a reality of people living with HIV/AIDs but cannot take their medicine without enough food. The situation is bad,” Mr Ecweru adds.
He says President Museveni has directed the ministry for disaster management to do everything possible to save the starving people. “Now we have been sent across the country in teams to sensitise people how to manage the little food available and how to utilise the prevailing rains to plant early-maturing crops,” says Ecweru.
He heads the “sensitization” team in Teso, which is one of the most hit areas and is receiving emergency food relief from the government.
Ecweru says schools in the said areas will have difficulties opening in the next academic year as they will not have enough food to feed the students.
Minister Kibanzanga blames the hunger on drought. He says 65 per cent of the people in Karamoja receive one meal or half a meal a day, contrary to the recommended three meals.
Some 35 per cent of people in the districts in Teso, some of which border Karamoja, are also said to be facing hunger just like their counterparts in Karamoja. The most vulnerable districts of Teso are Katakwi, Amuria, Kumi, Bukedea, and parts of Serere and Kaberamaido.
Mr Kibanzanga says 50 per cent of the people in Koboko, Yumbe, Moyo, Maracha, Arua, Zombo, Nebbi, Adjumani, Amuru, Nyoya, Gulu, Pader, Lamwo, Kitgum, Agago, Soroti, Ngora, Amolatar, Pallisa, Butaleja, Rakai, Isingiro and Tororo get one meal a day.
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