Uganda Monthly Report 01/2003 - LRA activity wanes but aid supply problematic


  • A hiatus in Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) activities has been observed in northern Uganda since December, due largely to the high presence of government troops. However, civil security remains uncertain, and many households remain in protected settlements. Some internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pader District are inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. Many IDPs already face moderate food shortages; the likely low production in coming seasons will increase their risk to food insecurity. Travel on many roads is only possible with armed escort.
  • Household stocks in Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit Districts are low. WFP and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) estimate that current household stocks may not last through March 2003, implying significant food insecurity problems in the region in the coming months. The most affected areas are the eastern drier belt counties close to Kenya. WFP plans to start distributing 4,500 MT per month to the most affected people. This is in addition to 6,000 MT already being supplied through its school feeding programme and Protracted Relief and Recovery Program (PRRO) 10121 in the first half of 2003.
  • The World Food Program (WFP) is experiencing a shortage of cereals for its northern program, and, as a result, IDPs may not receive any relief grain until after January 2003, when new supplies are expected. For now, the agency continues to distribute pulses, corn soy blend (CSB) and oil to the IDPs.
  • Household food security is normal in other parts of the country, benefiting from the ongoing second season harvest. Overall, livestock conditions are good in the main pastoral areas of central, southern, southwestern and northeastern Uganda. FEWS NET is investigating unconfirmed reports of Anaplasmosis in western Moroto District, northeastern Uganda.
  • Supplies to major markets remain normal with no significant bottlenecks. Staple prices continued to follow normal seasonal trends, declining during December in Kampala. However, prices of sorghum rose in Moroto District because of low supplies, and depressed livestock prices have significantly reduced household purchasing power. This trend is expected to worsen as the "hunger period" draws nearer, and households deplete any remaining food stocks.

1.0 Review of Continuing Humanitarian and Food Crises; Responses and Mitigation

Northern Uganda - Gulu, Kitgum Pader Districts: Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel activities have declined in northern Uganda since last month with only a few isolated attacks reported. The decline in rebel activity is attributed to the increased deployment of larger numbers of armed personnel by the Government of Uganda (GoU). Nonetheless, civil insecurity remains uncertain in Kitgum and Pader.

As previously reported, the civil insecurity in northern Uganda has led to the displacement of many households. The internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in government protected settlements with limited access to own food sources. They are moderately food insecure and lack shelter and basic services. Current estimates number the IDPs in Gulu, Kitgum and Pader at nearly 690,000, with Gulu District having the largest number of IDPs (55 percent of estimated number), followed by Pader District. The IDPs are mainly dependent on food and non-food assistance provided by the government, UN agencies and church and non-government organizations, which provide food, shelter, medical, water and sanitation services to the IDPs to mitigate their suffering. The World Food Program (WFP), the main food aid provider through its implementing partner, the Norwegian Refugee Council, is experiencing serious funding and pipeline shortages for its northern program and has not bee able to procure adequate cereals to feed the IDPs following the increase in their number and ration requirements in 2002. As a result, the agency may not be able to provide cereals to the IDPs in January 2003 but it hopes to resume distribution after new stocks are received by February, although these stocks are not expected to last long. The agency is urgently appealing for funds to purchase cereals to replenish its northern pipeline. In the mean time, the agency continues to distribute pulses, corn soy blend (CSB) and oil to the IDPs.

Alongside military intervention, 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 organization are involved in supporting these various efforts.

2.0 Current and Projected Food Security Conditions for the Short to Medium Term

The region's single and only harvest of 2002 was well below normal. This, combined with low household stocks in Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit Districts (Karamoja Region), are causing concern among district officials and humanitarian organizations about the likely risk of food shortages for many families. WFP and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) report low and diminishing household food stocks and market supplies in the eastern drier belt counties close to Kenya. As a result, some agro-pastoralists in these areas have started migrating with their livestock in search of food, thereby limiting household access to livestock products for those family members remaining behind. Other people are migrating to urban centres in search of labor opportunities, which are very few. Agencies estimate that current household stocks may not last through March 2003, implying significant food insecurity problems for the region in the coming months. In response to projected higher food needs in the region, WFP plans to increase its food assistance by about 4,500 MT per month for general distribution to the most affected population, starting January 2003. This is in addition to 6,000 MT already being supplied during the first half of 2003 under the school feeding program and WFP's Protracted Relief and Recovery Program (PRRO).

Continuing civil insecurity in northern Uganda has limited household access to their fields, rendering them mainly dependent on humanitarian aid. Because the conflict is unlikely to end before the commencement of the major cropping season in March, and people will still have limited access to fields, and there will likely be a continued need for food aid in the future.

The ongoing second season harvests in other parts of the country ensure availability of household food and supplies to markets. FEWS NET does not foresee any major constraints to household food access.

3.0 National Trends: Hazard Information

3.1 Rainfall Conditions: Normal dry conditions were observed in the country during December, with the exception of areas in the Lake Victoria Basin, Lake Kyoga shores and eastern Uganda, where above normal rainfall was recorded. Most of this rainfall occurred during the last week of the month, with some areas continuing to receive rains in January, which is normally dry. The rainfall favored vegetation regeneration but was of limited advantage to cereals that had suffered the irreversible damage of moisture stress during critical growth stages. The Meteosat image (Figure 1) corroborates reports and observations of high rainfall levels in the areas referred to above.

Figure 1: Comparison of Rainfall Estimates December 2002 with Average Rainfall

FEWS NET/Uganda, January 2003; Source of data: NOAA

3.2 Crop Cultivation Activities and Growing Conditions: The second season is almost over in central, eastern and parts of northern Uganda. Poor cereal harvests are expected in most areas as a result of much below normal rainfall during head and tassel formation and grain filling stages. On the other hand, pulse, oil and other crop harvests should be normal.

The second and major season in western and southwestern Uganda is ongoing, and the harvest for some crops, such as beans, has already started. A large percentage of the cereals are still maturing in the fields. Mbarara District agricultural officials indicate adequate availability of food, including beans and potatoes. The supply of banana (matooke) is relatively low, which is normal for this time of year when most of the crop is in the pollination and flowering stages. Cassava and sweet potato supplies are normal for key production and consumption areas.

3.3 Livestock Conditions: District Veterinary officials in the main cattle keeping areas of central, southern and southwestern Uganda report favorable rainfall conditions in a normally dry January, providing support to regeneration of vegetation and replenishment of water sources. This augurs well for livestock access to adequate pasture and water.

Both the Lutheran World Federation (which is actively involved with agro-pastoralists in Moroto District) and the agriculture department report that unseasonable rains in the last quarter of 2002 resulted in better pasture in a number of areas. This has allowed pastoralists to stay closer to homesteads, securing access to livestock products, such as milk and protein, especially important for children and the elderly. However, the reports also indicate that drier areas of the region, mainly close to the border with Kenya and Jie and Dodoth Counties (Kotido District), are experiencing normal dry conditions and many agro-pastoralists have begun their seasonal migration in search of pasture and water for their livestock. In the meantime, demand for livestock has declined and this has led to a drop in livestock prices.

Unconfirmed reports indicated isolated cases of Anaplasmosis, a highly contagious livestock disease, in western Moroto District. FEWS NET continues to investigate these reports.

4.0 Market Trends, Trade, Food Availability and Access

Market reports indicate normal crop supplies in the major markets and no significant bottlenecks. Crop prices continued to follow normal seasonal trends, as observed for most of the last half of 2002 (Figure 2). On average, a 100 kg bag of dry maize grain sold for about UGS 30,000, while the same volume of beans cost UGS 45,000. In markets around Kampala a sharp decline was observed in maize prices from November to December, down from UGS 40,000 per 100 kg bag in November to around UGS 29,000. Traders attribute the price reduction to inflows from early harvests of the second season maize crop, mainly from parts of western Uganda, where the crop was sown early.

Figure 2: Wholesale Crop Prices for Selected Markets: Jan. to Dec. 2002

Source: Market Information Services and FEWS NET, January 2003

The price of bananas (matooke) increased as supplies decreased and demand rose during the holiday season. In Mbarara District, a major production and consumption area for matooke, the price rose by 26 percent over the last quarter of 2002. Nonetheless, prices remain affordable for market dependent households and are expected to return to normal by the end of March, when supplies should increase.

In Moroto District, LWF reports rising cereal prices, especially for sorghum, due to low crop supplies. The low supplies are a result of low production in the region's recently concluded single season, low household food stocks and lower than normal production in the neighboring districts, which are traditional suppliers to the Karamoja region. The neighboring districts of Soroti, Katakwi, Kumi and Lira experienced a lower than normal season, and farmers may have only minimal stocks left over to sell this year after meeting their household requirements.

Of particular concern, LWF notes a significant rise in the price of sorghum, the main staple crop in the region, where a kilogram now sells for UGS 500, up from UGS 300 per kg in August 2002. This contrasts with the normal price of UGS 130 to 200 per kg 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 while, at the same time, sorghum prices increase. Currently, an average head of cattle fetches only UGS 200,000. Compared to what it normally costs at this time of year (between UGS 400,000 and UGS 500,000), the decline is at least 50 percent. Goats and sheep are selling for between UGS 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" draws nearer and households deplete any remaining food stocks. The situation requires critical monitoring to ensure early intervention before households lose all means of livelihood.