If no immediate efforts are adopted, many people in eastern and northern Uganda could be staring at famine, investigations by this newspaper can reveal. The worst hit districts are Bulambuli and the region of Karamoja where 1.2 million people are facing food shortage.
In the east, three people have died in the last one month and in Gulu, the Woman MP, Ms Betty Aol, said last week that three children have died in the district due to starvation. State Minister for Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru, told this newspaper that his ministry and that of agriculture are drawing up a budget to help mitigate the situation.
Following the persistent drought that reduced pasture and food production, Karimojong cattle keepers are selling their few remaining cows and goats in order to survive. Others who lost their animals to cattle rustlers have resorted to breaking stones and selling them to Tororo Cement Industries while some gather wild fruits to survive.
"We are just selling off our animals to survive but traditionally cows in Karamoja are only meant for marriage," said Timothy Koryang, an elder in Moroto. Although Karamoja is experiencing drought, heavy rains that have lasted almost a week have rendered most of the region impassable.
Ms Anastasia Among, a 40 year-old widow in Ocorai village in Serere and her family, depend on farming for survival but for the last three months, there has been no rain in her area and the crops have withered.
"I depend on growing crops for sale and consumption at home. This year the harvest is very poor and we fear there is going to be a serious food shortage," Ms Among said.
Children kept at home
"In a good season, I get one million shillings each harvest but I do not hope to get anything this year. I don't know how to pay my children's fees," said Ms Among. The looming food crisis is coming at a time when the region is still reeling from effects of floods in 2007 that caused famine.
In West Nile region, families have one meal a day as a result of food shortage that has pushed prices up.
Mr Clement Adrabo, a resident of Ediofe, said: "We now take one meal per day because food is expensive and there is no money. I have even stopped drinking alcohol and the money should rather be used for feeding my family," the father of four said. To survive, some families have resorted to borrowing food from friends, hunting, selling their land and animals.
As food scarcity worsens in many districts of northern Uganda due to unfavorable climatic conditions, many households have resorted to rationing the available foodstuffs they have in their family stores. It is predicted that several families in Omoro and Aswa counties in Gulu District could face starvation in the coming months following a severe destruction caused by hailstorm on their farmlands last months.
The hailstorms destroyed acres of beans, cassava and cotton mainly in Lakwana and Paicho sub counties.
However, rains in Acholi and Lango subregions have continued to improve since early May, raising hopes of an average harvest in August.
If the rains cease now as forecasted, then harvests may be realised below average. Government predicts that from September 2011, acute food shortages are likely to be experienced in 35 districts.