Rising food prices threaten relief in Uganda

May 22, 2008 12:00 am

, KAMPALA, May 22 – Rising food prices are threatening emergency food relief efforts in Uganda’s drought-stricken north, State Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru said Wednesday.

"The population has no purchasing power, they rely entirely on relief. We are conducting an operation with the WFP (World Food Programme) to feed the one million people there, but rising food prices is a problem," Ecweru said.

The WFP said it will distribute enough food to meet the needs of 300,000 people, but that it lacks enough funds to feed the rest.

The northwestern region of Karamoja is one of the driest and least developed areas in Uganda with no irrigation systems and tacky infrastructure.

Drought forces the one million-plus people in the region bordering Kenya and Sudan to constantly move around searching for food.

Uganda’s floods last autumn, which climate experts said were a consequence of global warming, washed away what little crops existed.

"The floods last year have destroyed the crops in Karamoja, and there has been a long dry spell since," Ecweru said.

Reports have surfaced of the residents of Karamoja resorting to eating rats after two years straight of extreme drought, but Ecweru said that "rats have always been eaten im Karamoja, with or without famine."

Ecweru told AFP that at least seven deaths had resulted from malnutrition and hygiene-related diseases in recent weeks.

"What worries me is how sustainable the (food) operation is," Ecweru said.


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