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Karamoja food crisis worsens

A mother gives her daughter a morsel of peanut paste as she prepares the family meal. Karamoja is once again experiencing a food crisis. WFP PHOTO

Donors urged to invest in both emergency response and long-term solutions

ANALYSIS | RONALD MUSOKE | Insecurity, cattle rustling, COVID-19 after shock, rising food prices, climate change and limited resources are some of the factors pushing thousands of Karimojong households into destitution, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis released in Kampala on June 8.

Karamoja is one of the poorest regions in Uganda with a poverty rate of 66% – more than three times the national poverty rate. But this is the first time in three years that all the nine districts of Karamoja; Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Karenga, Kotido, Moroto, Nabilatuk, Nakapiripit and Napak are at food crisis level or worse.

The ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa has affected the Karamoja sub-region. High food prices have left many families unable to afford nutritious foods – forcing them to find other ways to cope.  Some families have been forced to consume their seed stocks, leaving nothing for the planting season while others have had to borrow money or reduce expenditure on necessities such as education and health.

According to the latest analysis, over 40% of the population (518,000 people) in Karamoja is facing high levels of food insecurity. Last year, when similar analysis was done, the figure was about 30% (361,000 people).

Of the 518,000 people with high levels of food insecurity, 428,000 are experiencing phase three (crisis levels of food insecurity) and 90,000 people are at phase four (emergency levels of food insecurity).

In Moroto District, one of the nine districts that make up Karamoja sub-region of northeastern Uganda, over half of the population goes without any food for an entire day and night for at least three days a month.

Analysts say the situation has been exacerbated by insecurity that has driven people away from their homes and destabilized crop production. Cattle raids have robbed people of animals on which they depended for nutritious food. Delayed and unpredictable rainfall and diseases such as COVID-19 and malaria have further deepened the crisis.

“The situation in Karamoja is an example of how a perfect storm of climate change, conflict, rising food costs, the impact of Covid-19 and limited resources is increasing the number of hungry people,” said Abdirahman Meygag, the WFP Uganda Representative. “We urgently need more funding to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of thousands of vulnerable people in Karamoja.”

Young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women are among the most vulnerable in Karamoja. The IPC acute malnutrition analysis indicates that 91,600 children and 9,500 pregnant or breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished and in urgent need of treatment.

Around 2.4 % of children in Karamoja are severely malnourished – an increase from 1.9% in 2021. Another 10.7% of children are moderately malnourished, up from 8.8%.

In Kotido, Napak, Nabilatuk and Amudat districts, acute malnutrition is at critical levels while Karenga, Abim and Nakapiripit are on alert. Except for Abim and Karenga districts that have registered a slight improvement, acute malnutrition has worsened in all the other seven districts.

Acute malnutrition can be prevented and treated, but the Karamoja regions needs urgent action and support, according to the experts.

At 4,791, Moroto district has the highest absolute number of children who are severely malnourished. Moroto, Kotido, Kaabong districts account for almost 55 % of children under five years in need of malnutrition treatment in Karamoja sub-region.

“We must not wait for thousands of children to die. We have said never again too many times. We need long term and predictable funding to help these children and their families,” Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative to Uganda, said.

IPC working group

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is an innovative multi-partner initiative for improving food security and nutrition analysis and decision-making. By using the IPC classification and analytical approach, governments, UN Agencies, NGOs, civil society and other relevant actors, work together to determine the severity and magnitude of acute and chronic food insecurity, and acute malnutrition situations in a country, according to internationally-recognised scientific standards.

The main goal of the IPC is to provide decision-makers with a rigorous, evidence- and consensus-based analysis of food insecurity and acute malnutrition situations, to inform emergency responses as well as medium- and long-term policy and programming.

The IPC uses a scale of one to five to measure food insecurity, with one being the least food insecure and five the most food insecure. Communities deemed to be experiencing“phase one” are said to be food secure.

In“phase two,” communities are deemed “food stressed,” while those in “phase three” are said to be experiencing a food crisis. Under “phase four” it is an emergency while those under “phase five,” their situation is said to be catastrophic.

Like for food insecurity, there are five levels on the IPC measure of malnutrition. Phase one is acceptable nutrition, under phase two, the nutrition levels raise alerts, phase three is serious, phase four is critical and phase five is extremely critical.

Malnutrition is at critical levels in Kaabong and Moroto districts. In addition to putting children at high risk of dying, malnutrition can have a life-long impact on society and those it affects, especially children. The lives of thousands of children are at stake.

In Uganda, the IPC working group comprises representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Health, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners.

New strategy needed

The IPC also predicts that while food insecurity is likely to improve slightly between August 2022 and January 2023, its longer-term impact, acute malnutrition, is likely to stay in the same worrying state.

According to the June-September outlook for Karamoja published by USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), above-average rainfall forecast from April to September is expected to support a timely start to the harvest in July.

“This will boost food availability, driving seasonal declines in staple food prices.” The outlook noted that increased availability of food for own consumption, outcomes are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in August and September.

The IPC results released are not so different from what has been seen in the last few years, according to Antonio Querido, the FAO representative to Uganda.

But there is need to shift focus from responding to food insecurity crisis in Karamoja every year after it has already happened, according to Querido.

“We need to anticipate the increased risk and invest in strengthening early warning efforts at the national and community-levels to capture real-time evidence to monitor an evolving risk with practical indicators to allow anticipatory and early decision-making to reduce the impact of an impending crisis.”

He said donors should invest in both emergency response and long-term solutions to resolve the hunger and malnutrition crisis in Karamoja.

“As Uganda government, we are determined that no one should be left behind on the journey to zero hunger,” said Esther Anyakun, the Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees.

“The National Development Plan III has a clear roadmap for including places that are lagging behind because of shocks and other factors, including the Karamoja sub-region. Our appeal is for donors to support the Uganda government with resources to respond to the emergency and long term needs of Karamoja sub-region.”

Last September, the European Union initiated a Shs 17bn (€4 million) project known as the Pro-Resilience Action Project (Pro-ACT).

The project is being implemented with collaboration between two UN agencies; the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as well as the Office of the Prime Minister.

The project is intended to help the poor and vulnerable people respond to food shocks.  It is also intended to work towards strengthening the shock response systems in all the nine districts of Karamoja through early warning on weather patterns and assistance to enable households take action to reduce their risk.


One comment

  1. So what are we waiting for to buy food using MP allowances and 10 billion from state House budget

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