As attention focuses on strife-torn nations to its north, hunger is rife in Uganda, with food shortages leading to rapidly rising prices and a continuing drought, particularly in the poorest regions, such as Karamoja in the north-east.
The situation is so bad that women and children are foraging in the forests for leaves to use for food, according to local priests. But the forests themselves are in danger because people are eking out a living by selling firewood and charcoal.
There has also been an increase in theft as well as domestic violence and drunkenness, the priests have told the Catholic charity SPICMA – Special Projects in Christian Missionary Areas – which has donated £45,000 to three remote parishes since it received an appeal from them a month ago.
One of them is Loyoro a large parish with long distances between settlements and few medical facilities. At least 4,000 people in the parish are in serious need of food aid.
Among them are refugees from South Sudan, some of the 1.5 million in the country. Despite its poverty Uganda has one of the world’s most generous refugee policies, allotting refugees plots of land to build new lives.
Loyoro received £10,000 from SPICMA, an entirely voluntary charity with no paid staff. A report from local priests said: “We have managed to feed and help many people; young and old, diseased and sick, and orphans and refugees.”
The grant provided maize, beans, salt, cooking oil and medicine to nearly 3,000 of the most vulnerable. They were distributed on the “family meal principle” meaning, giving foods that constitute a meal rather than a stock of one staple such as flour because that leads to a temptation to sell some of it.
However, the family meal principle is expensive on a large scale or for a long period. And, the priests say, the numbers needing help are
increasing. “Day in, day out the vulnerability increases,” their report said.
“The people entirely rely on the little that we can provide to them. It is tragic but we still hope the situation may improve.”
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