Humanitarian Update - Uganda, Volume V, Issue 1

January 2003
Drought Hurts Karamoja

FEWS NET reports that a much-below-normal harvest in Karamoja's single and only harvest of 2002 as well as low household stocks in Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit Districts are causing concern among district officials and humanitarian organizations about the likely risk of food shortage for many families. WFP and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) also report low and diminishing household food stocks and market supplies in the eastern drier belt counties close to Kenya. Agencies estimate that current household stocks may not last through March 2003. As a result, some agro-pastoralists in these areas have started migrating with their livestock in search of food, thus limiting household access to livestock products - mainly milk and blood - for those members remaining behind. Others are reported to be migrating to urban centres in search of labour opportunties, which are limited. Unfortunately, some armed pastoralists are reported to have started moving to neighbouring districts, particularly Katakwi, inflicting violent raids on the local communities. Consequently, the Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) was forced to pursue them into Karamoja. It is understaood that the UPDF will only allow Karimojong pastoralists into Katakwi and neighbouring districts if they are not armed. Furthermore the UPDF is reinforcing security in the vulnerable counties in Katakwi, mainly through increasing the number of UPDF and recruiting 1000 Local Defence Units (LDU).

In Moroto District, LWF reports rising cereal prices, especially for sorghum, due to low crop supplies resulting from a poor harvest in the region's recently ended single season. There are also low household food stocks, and lower than normal production in the neighboring districts, of Soroti, Katakwi, Kumi and Lira (traditional suppliers to the Karamoja region).

In addition to the Karimojong's near exhausted coping mechanisms in this dry season, FEWS NET notes, with concern, a significant rise in the price of sorghum, the main staple crop in the region, where a kilogram now sells for UShs 500, up from UShs 300 per kilogram in August 2002. This contrasts with the normal price of UShs 130 to 200 during periods of good production. LWF reports that many households are now selling their livestock to earn income to purchase food crops from the market. Terms of trade are worsening as livestock supplies outstrip demand, prices of animals drop and at the same time, sorghum prices increase. Currently, an average head of cattle fetches only UShs 200,000. Compared to what it normally costs at this time of year - between UShs 400,000 and UShs 500,000 - the decline is at least 50%. Goats and sheep are selling for between UShs 10,000 and UShs 15,000, one-third to a quarter of the price they would normally sell for at this time. This trend is expected to worsen as the "hunger period" intensifies and peaks between February and June 2003 and households draw on any remaining food stocks. The situation requires critical monitoring to ensure early intervention before households lose all means of livelihood.

In response to projected higher food needs in the region, WFP plans to increase its food assistance by about 4,500 MT of grain for general distribution to the most affected population between January and June 2003. This is in addition to 6,000 MT already being supplied during the first half of 2003 under the school feeding program.

Katakwi Suffers From Karimojong raids

As reported above, armed Karimojong pastoralists entered Katakwi District in search of pasture and water, but have sadly inflicted raids on the populace. This has caused further displacement of an estimated 10,000, heightening fear among the residents and existing 77,000 IDPs. The situation in Katakwi has become more tense particularly since 23rd January 2003, when Karimojong warriors who had brought their animals to Katakwi for water and pasture were driven back to Karamoja. Most affected areas are Acowa and Usuk sub-counties. Other affected sub counties include Kapelebyong, Obalanga and Oditel, all which directly border with Karamoja..

LWF reports that the district leadership from Teso and Karamoja have met to try and prevent further attacks and institute amicable relations between the Karimojong grazing in Katakwi and the residents. However, the Karimojong cannot enter Katakwi with their guns. The UPDF is reported to have started the screening process of recruiting 1000 LDUs who will beef up the security in vulnerable areas.

On 31st January there was a meeting held at Katakwi Community Centre attended by RDCs, LCV Councilors and MPs from districts surrounding Karamoja and according to unconfirmed reports, the following conditions were "agreed" on: -

  • The Bokora will have first to hand over 230 guns to the army before the leaders from Karamoja and Teso meet to identify animals in the next meeting of the leaders once the guns are recovered.

  • The branded animals identified will then be handed over to the bonafide owners in Karamoja and the non branded would then given to Teso and Lango.

  • Two grazing corridors will be created in Karamoja. One in Apeitolim and the other towards Palaam and Magoro in Katakwi but on the Karamoja side.

  • An army battalion is to be set up in Napak Mountain.

  • District leaders would meet on a monthly basis to assess the situation.

Some of the "agreed" points no doubt raise concern. Like grazing the animals on the Karamoja side may be unrealistic if there is no pasture there; further, the Karimojong seem uncomfortable with the conditionality of the guns and the fact that some of their animals are not branded. Due to these concerns, the agreements reached may not hold as evidenced by the entry of an estimated 200 well-armed Karimojong warriors into Katakwi district in Acowa and Usuk sub-counties on Sunday, 2nd February. The warriors raided an unspecified number of cattle, though UPDF and LDUs reportedly recovered some of the animals. A similar operation to that undertaken in Katakwi will be done in Lango, and other neighbouring districts to Karamoja.

From initial assessments done by organisations including LWF, OXFAM and Concern Worldwide, immediate needs have been identified as food and water. Other needs include shelter materials, soap (washing and bathing), water containers (jerrycans) and other utensils, temporary bathing shelters and food supplements for over 2,000 lactating mothers and about 20% of the population of children under fives. Humanitarian organizations report that as a short-term measure to the fresh displacement, there is urgent need to respond to this emergency situation to avoid another human catastrophe. At the same time humanitarian organizations and UN agencies need to lobby for improved security on the district. It is understood that the displaced will not return home until adequate security is provided for them. Katakwi district last had violent Karimojong raids that caused displacement of up to 88,000 in 2000. Unless the events unfolding currently in Katakwi are contained, the humanitarian emergency that occurred in 2000 could easily be repeated.

- For a full assessment report(s) contact George Ebong of LWF at

- Another assessment on food security status for IDPs in Katakwi may be obtained from Elizabeth of ActionAid at

LRA still relentless in attacks on Northern Uganda

Vital signs in this region remain bleak: The IDPs in northern Uganda suffer from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and upper thoracic infections and are very vulnerable to a host of other communicable diseases. There have been generally lower than normal harvests in the districts here that have resulted into precariously low household food stocks. Continuing insecurity 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.

There has been a decline in the intensity of LRA activities, which some attribute largely to a high presence of government troops. However, civil security remains uncertain and many households remain in protected settlements. Humanitarian organizations cannot access almost all IDPs in Pader District. Many IDPs already face moderate food shortages; likely low production in coming seasons will increase their risk to food insecurity. LRA rebels continue to ambush and attack vehicles, abduct and kill people in addition to torching huts throughout the sub-region. The roads/protected camps outside Gulu, Kitgum, Pader and Adjumani municipalities are still highly insecure and inaccessible without military escorts. 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 and 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. This will inevitable result in increased killings, abductions and other atrocities by the LRA.

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 WFP assistance, 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. However, reports indicate that some IDPs are beginning to prepare their gardens - though access is quite limited to the gardens close to the camps - in readiness for the first rainy season expected March-May. 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.

Since July 2002, WFP has distributed 20,726 metric tons of food to the affected population in the Acholi sub-region. In addition, some 8,081 metric tons of food has been distributed to refugees in Uganda. However, due to a critical shortfall of cereals in January 2003, WFP has been forced to suspend distributions of cereals to the IDPs in northern Uganda and to reduce all cereal rations to refugees by 50 percent until the pipeline stabilizes. IDPs in northern Uganda are expected to receive only pulses, vegetable oil, and some CSB during January. On 10th January WFP issued an Emergency Appeal to the Donor Community in order to meet the current shortfall of 87,329 tons from January to July 2003. Donors were urged to come forward with generous donations in order to mitigate the unfolding humanitarian disaster in northern Uganda.

Thanks to a pledge from DFID, 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. Additional cash resources are urgently required to avoid reverses in the hunger and malnutrition rates among the IDP population of northern Uganda. Additionally, a pledge from the United States of 24,000 tons of cereals and 1,000 tons of vegetable oil is expected to improve the pipeline situation in June. WFP is trying to arrange borrowing against this contribution, but this might prove difficult, given the serious pipeline shortages throughout the region.

Other donors have also responded as follows; Sweden - $2.8m; Japan - $421,000; USAID - $220,000; Ireland - $106,000; DFID - US$932,000 Currently, immediate pledges of 47,500 tons (estimated at $38,000,000) are required to ensure continued implementation of the complete range of WFP's planned activities through July.

It is worth mentioning that that, WFP feeds over 800,000 IDPs - 395,000 in Gulu (33 camps), 99,000 in Kitgum (7 camps), 271,000 in Pader (20 camps) and another 47, 000 in Lira District in some temporary camps. In addition, it feeds 150,000 refugees in 66 settlements in eight districts.

To compound the above, reports confirmed by the LC III reveal that two accidental fires in Pabbo camp on 4th and 5th February razed 3119 huts to the ground. The major fire, which occurred on 5th was apparently started by two children below five years and has affected 18,593 out of 61,118 people. UN OCHA has contacted various organizations and UN agencies including CARE, ACF, ACCORD, UNICEF and WFP for emergency assistance.

Efforts by the GOU to end the rebellion are recognized by many, although it is still unclear how long the insurgency will continue. In December 2002, President Yoweri Museveni established a six-member team for peace talks with the LRA in December. However, there were certain preconditions for talks, including that a ceasefire be agreed; that the LRA undertake to stop kidnapping and killing civilians; and that the entire LRA force confine itself to only three sites in southern Sudan where the group has bases. Unfortunately, Joseph Kony has not named his team. Though he reportedly maintains that he wants genuine talks. Increased efforts towards a negotiated, peaceful solution to the northern problem provide a glimmer of hope for the resident population and several options are being pursued. The government, local district authorities, church and non-government organizations are involved and support these various efforts.

Short Notes

Government signs peace pact with UNRF II

On 24th December 2002, Government of Uganda finally signed a peace pact with over 2000 Uganda National Rescue Front II (UNRF II) in the northwestern District of Yumbe. The UNRF II are reported to have pledged to respect the accord with government, and promised not to mount any further attacks in West Nile. The agreement comes after five years of negotiations and was signed under the presidential amnesty according to which the Ugandan government promised reintegration and economic support for rebels who surrendered. This means that the Government made financial commitments for resettlement and reintegration of ex-combatants, and for convening a development conference within four months. Though assistance for peace talks and resettlement of ex-combatants is being mainly financed by donors, there is no funding for reintegration despite the Government's commitment of USD 2.2 million. After being individually approached by the committee set up to oversee the reintegration process, donors met on 22 January to find a common approach to support Government in meeting its commitments to the surrendered rebels. Donors noted that Government bears the responsibility for honouring its commitments, but in support, recommended that funding be made available using existing central structures. This is where resources are channeled through central Government as opposed to funding individual districts.

Meningitis hits Nebbi

The Nebbi district office of the district director of health services was alerted to meningitis in the district in January 2003. Meningitis cases in Nebbi were first reported in Angal hospital and all but one of the cases - from Nebbi town - came from Pamora.

On learning of the epidemic, the office of the director of health services immediately assessed the situation in affected villages and noted the following:

  • The hospital had actually seen cases of meningitis between November 30th 2002 and 18th January 2003.

  • Community health education was needed and given with particular emphasis on early reporting on suspicion of cases and avoidance of congestion.

  • Information about cases in Nyapea hospital in Okoro County was received in the third week of January. The District Health Team (DHT) found that the hospital had seen 56 cases with 7 deaths from 1st January 2003 and up to Friday 25th January 2003. The hospital now reported seeing one to three cases daily.

Key issues of concern include the following:
  • The thrust of the outbreak is in sub-counties bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. The district reports that in December 2002 there were 11,000 DRC refugees and it is estimated that there may be about 15,000 refugees, mainly in the sub-counties of Paidha, Jangokoro, Paidha T.C., Zeu and Nyapea. (Note that UNHCR places the figure of DRC refugees in November 2002 at 5000).

  • The refugee situation could have caused or can worsen the outbreak. It is also reported that some refugees from Angal clan in the DRC have moved to Angal area near Angal hospital. In Angal where the refugee population, if any, is low, the epidemic has got controlled easily and was of a small size.

  • The refugee situation is only expected to get worse at least in the next few months and unless the epidemic is controlled in some other ways, it is also expected to worsen. The RDC's office reports that refugees are swelling up household populations from about 4 - 7 to about 20 or over in some cases. There is a lot of over-crowding which is conducive to the spread of this epidemic.

On 26th January, Nebbi district office of the district director of health services wrote to Ministry of Health (MoH), who have since dispatched a team to Nebbi. MoH also plans to carry out a district wide vaccination. The district health office, MoH officials and humanitarian organizations like MSF-France are monitoring the situation while intervening to end the epidemic.

Renewal of "Operation Iron Fist" in Sudan

According to a news report in The New Vision 2nd December 2002, Uganda's Defence Minister, Amama Mbabazi, left for Khartoum on 31st November 2002, in connection with the "renewal of the Protocol between Uganda and Sudan" to hunt down the LRA rebels. Mr. Mbabazi's visit came less than a fortnight after Sudanese President's Special Envoy visited Kampala to "assure Uganda of Sudan's continued cooperation in the Kony hunt" the report added. In a related news report on the following day details of Mr. Mbabazi's meeting in Khartoum, indicated that Sudan has "given Uganda two more months to flush out the LRA rebels from bases in southern Sudan. Meanwhile Uganda has reiterated her stand not to offer any support to the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) that has fought the Khartoum government since 1981".

Refugee issues

From UNHCR's sub-office in Arua, reports indicate that in December 2002, there was a peace plan to be mapped out to curb the inter-ethnic clashes that had escalated in the neighbouring DRC, causing scores of asylum seekers to continue fleeing into Uganda. The two groups, Hema and Lendu, represented by Union Patriotic Congolese (UPC) and Front de Nationalities et des Intergrationalites (FNI) respectively, were represented by their respective delegations to peace talks at the State Lodge in Arua on 30th December 2002. The deal, however, did not come through as the UPC refused to sign a cease-fire agreement to end the hostilities. This implies that tensions in eastern DRC are still high and refugees from DRC will continue trickling into Uganda.

Note: UNHCR's position on the persons who are coming into Nebbi from the DRC remains that they will only be assisted if they agree to move to a designated refugee settlement in the neighboring Arua District. In November 2002 OPM and UNHCR undertook mission to Nebbi and held extensive meetings with this group. In terms of numbers, it was estimated that there were some 5000 DRC persons seeking asylum present in Nebbi at that time, out of which only 187 agreed to move to the designated refugee settlement in Arua. UNHCR provided transport and other logistical support to these 187 persons. UNHCR and OPM are currently in Nebbi assessing the situation and will issue a report thereafter.

Meanwhile, OPM and UNHCR have developed an Information Leaflet that incorporates the position of the Government and UNHCR with regards to these persons. This information will also be translated into French and the local language. For the purposes of wider dissemination the Information leaflet will be posted at all prominent locations in and around Nebbi Town. (A copy of this leaflet may be obtained from Bushra Malik in UNHCR - Or from Jane Namulindwa in OCHA -

Furthermore, OPM and UNHCR (both the Kampala office and Sub-Office Arua) are closely monitoring the situation and will share more information as and when new developments occur.

Reports reaching UNHCR's field office in Mbarara on 24th December, indicated a possibility of cross border movements from Bunia, Eastern DRC (some 500 kms South of Aru) into Uganda through the western border of the two countries. But subsequent check with the Regional and District Police commandants, in Fort Portal and Bundibugyo respectively, indicated that there was no such mass movement of people into their areas of operation. They reported that about a thousand persons moved in the area 2 to 3 months back, and they are said to be living with relatives. They (the persons) refused to be verified claiming they would return once the security situation stabilized in their region. The situation, however, is being closely monitored for any eventualities.

Minors charged with treason

On 31st January, the humanitarian community in Gulu learnt with concern that two boys aged 14 and 16 years, were asked to answer charges of treason and kept under custody of caretakers. Justice and peace commission, UN agencies and NGOs have expressed their concern to the relevant authorities and are closely monitoring the case. Prior to this, organizations and agencies have expressed concern over 13 cases involving adults being kept in prison for up to 366 days while investigations are going on. A considerable number of similar cases are coming up to court. UN OCHA is to follow up the issues particularly of the two minors.

CCF signs MoU with WFP

On 10th January, CCF signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU with WFP to supply 312 MT of food items to 9,041 child and women headed IDP's in Lira municipality, Lira District. This arrangement will initially be for the period December 2002 to January 2003. After this period an assessment will be carried out and a clear way forward.

Affected Populations1
District Beneficiary Type
Adjumani Refugees (Su)
Apac Abducted children
Arua Refugees: Imvepi (Su)
Refugees: Rhino Camp (Su,DRC,Br)
Bundibugyo IDPs
Abducted children
Gulu IDPs
Abducted children
Hoima Refugees (DRC, Su, Ky,Br): Kyangwali
Refugees: Kyaka II (DRC)
Abducted children
Kasese Abducted children
Katakwi IDPs
Kitgum IDPs - Kitgum
Abducted children
Kotido Drought Affected
Lira Abducted children
Mbarara Refugees: Oruchinga (Rw)
Refugees: Nakivale (Rw,DRC,other)
Masindi Refugees: Kiryandongo (Su)
Moroto Drought Affected
Moyo Refugees (Su): Palorinya
Urban areas Refugees (mix)
Abducted children
Drought Affected

1 Affected population figures are of variable accuracy due to rapidly changing situation as well as the varying quality of information sources. Inclusion in this list does not necessarily indicate the population is receiving humanitarian assistance.. Note too that IDP camp populations reflect the population assisted by WFP (does not include unassisted population figures). Abbrev. are Sudanese (Su), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, (Rw), Burundi (Br), Kenyan (Ky).

Note. The population figures are as of end of December 2002. Please note that the IDP figures are WFP working figures. Those figures for Gulu, Kitgum and Pader do not reflect the displaced people or nightstayers in the towns. Due to the fluid insecurity, there is constant movement of people and the above are working figures and may thus fluctuate from month to month because no comprehensive registration of current displacement figures has been undertaken in the north since the LRA resurgence in June 2002. For the northern districts in particular the sign ** has been used to indicate that figures are constantly changing.

The contents of this Update do not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations. Sources for the Update include Government, UN, NGOs, donors, IOs and news agencies.

For more information or to contribute to the Humanitarian Update - Uganda, please contact:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
15 A Clement Hill Road
Ruth Towers B6
Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256 (41) 031 242 804/9
Fax: +256 (41) 031 242 801


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit