The government of China has donated food aid worth $5 million (about Shs 18bn) to the World Food Programme (WFP) to support a feeding programme for vulnerable groups threatened by malnutrition in the Karamoja sub-region.
More than 2000,000 people mostly school going children, infants and mothers are threatened by malnutrition in Karamoja according to official figures.
While handing over the relief food items at WFP warehouses in Kampala yesterday, Chinese Ambassador to Uganda Zeng Zhuqiang said the Chinese contribution will ensure that at least 130,000 students in over 290 schools in the region have access to food and education.
“Through this grant, WFP will be able to reinstate and provide two meals to the students in both primary and secondary schools in the seven districts of Karamoja, this will encourage pupils to come and stay in school” he said.
The feeding programme will run for a period of 10 months under WFP’s Community based supplementary feeding programme. The programme will also provide supplementary feeding to lactating women and infants.
El-Khidir Daloum, WFP’s country director and representative said the supplementary feeding targets 48,500 children aged 6-59 months, pregnant, breastfeeding and malnourished adults in the region.
“In addition to the above, we have mother and child health programme, with this contribution we will be providing foods to boost nutrition and health of over 48,000 pregnant and lactating mothers as well as children under two years to prevent stunting,” he said.
Daloum added; “Stunting remains a serious concern in Karamoja which has the second highest stunting levels countrywide at 35.2 per cent.”
Quoting the Uganda Demographic Household Survey (2016), WPF said over 80 per cent of the region’s population lives below the poverty line with nearly half (46 per cent) of the households deemed food insecure.
Musa Ecweru, the state minster for Disaster Preparedness and Management said Karamoja region is affected by hostile climate and so the government will continue feeding the region but also look for sustainability alternatives.
Ecweru observed that though climate change affected more developing countries, but poor people are more affected.
“in Uganda, Karamoja hunger claims lives of our people; when we get rains, the area floods or stagnates and kill tuber foods and when we receive less rain we get drought which also kills; in 2016 we had a dry spell that we have not fully recovered from,” he said.
John Byabagambi, the minister for Karamoja Affairs said statistics still show that malnutrition is still high but the government has started projects that will ensure that fertile areas in Karamoja produce food to feed their people.
“As we receive this support from China, the government is also working on programmes that will ensure that Karamoja is self sustain and this is by increasing farming acreage in Namalu, Matany and other areas,” he said.
However Byabagambi blamed increasing school dropouts to culture and nomadic nature of the Karamoja communities.
“We have built school in the whole region but because of the nomadic nature of these people, the attendance rates are still low, we are going to use the food to attract pupils to stay in schools; we are targeting a 45 per cent school attendance from the current 30 per cent,” he said.