Food insecurity likely to worsen in northern Uganda

News and Press Release
Originally published
AFR/561, IHA/759
NEW YORK, 12 February (OCHA) -- In Uganda, a persistent lack of security and funding shortfalls are placing already vulnerable populations in greater danger.

The situation in northern Uganda remains bleak, as internally displaced persons (IDPs) there suffer from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and upper thoracic infections, and are very vulnerable to a host of other communicable diseases. There have been lower than normal harvests that have resulted in precariously low household food stocks. Continuing insecurity -- caused by fighting between the Lord's Resistance Army and government forces -- is raising concerns that IDPs will not be able to gain adequate access to their homes and fields to cultivate food in the coming major season, which starts around March 2003.

Many IDPs already face moderate food shortages, and likely low production in coming seasons will increase their risk of food insecurity. The civilian population of northern Uganda remains almost totally isolated from the rest of the country. Due to the persistent insecurity, IDPs have almost totally lost access to the fields, hence, the dismal August/September 2002 harvest. This and the general disruption of other economic activities have constrained the coping strategies of the IDPs, who now completely depend on food aid for their survival.

In January, signs of increasing hunger were noted in the IDP camps, forcing people to seek food from fields outside the camps. The next planting season will be in March, with land preparation required in February, for a harvest in August 2003. Until then, the population will continue to rely heavily on assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP), which is becoming ever more difficult to provide given resource limitations. The current dangerous security situation prevailing in northern Uganda is still unrelenting and does not offer much hope for the IDPs to plant much in March, barely a month from now. It should be noted, however, that unless security greatly improves, the IDPs will not utilize the coming planting season usefully and might remain food insecure and, therefore, reliant on food aid.

A critical shortfall of cereals in January 2003 forced the WFP to suspend distributions of cereals to the IDPs in northern Uganda and to reduce all cereal rations to refugees by 50 per cent until the pipeline stabilizes. Thanks to a pledge from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, cereal distributions will be possible again in February. However, cereals will again experience a pipeline break in March, pulses in April and vegetable oil and blended food in March. The WFP feeds over 800,000 IDPs and 150,000 refugees in 66 settlements in eight districts.

At the beginning of the year, total affected populations in Uganda, including drought-affected persons, IDPs, refugees, and abducted children, are estimated at 1.02 million. The United Nations has launched a Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for $89 million to meet the humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations in 2003.

For further information, please contact: in New York, Brian Grogan, tel. 1-212-963-1143

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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