79 dead of starvation since start of year in north-eastern Uganda

Kampala (dpa) - Seventy-nine people have starved to death since the beginning of the year in the north-eastern Ugandan region of Karamoja, a regional government official said Wednesday.

The victims of the region's ongoing famine were too hungry and weak to search for food in far-off areas and starved to death in different villages in Moroto district, the district's government residence commissioner John Abingwa said.

"The food situation here is terribly bad. The drought which started in November led to bad harvests. But the raids for cattle among the Karamojong clans have displaced hundreds of people," he said.

Abingwa said there would be more deaths if food aid did not arrive soon, as children and the elderly succumbed to starvation and disease.

United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) officials were non-committal when asked about the starvation death toll in Karamoja.

They said a shortfall of about 60,000 metric tonnes of grain which they need to feed thousands of war-displaced people in northern Uganda over the next six month has affected deliveries to Karamoja.

Last week, the Rome-based U.N. food agency appealed to donors for 30 million worth of food supplies to feed about 800,000 people displaced by the civil war in northern Uganda.

Ernest Mutanga, a WFP official in Kampala manning the Karamoja desk, said Wednesday that "there was a problem with productivity in the region and this was worsened by inter-clan cattle rustling".

"We have been having interventions in Karamoja in the programme that targets school children, children under the age of five and vulnerable households feeding," he said.

"But the programme is tied to the Internally Displaced People (IDP) programme in northern Uganda and there has been a shortage. We are facing pipeline breaks".

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