Famine pushes Alebtong children out of school

A woman crushes stones to earn money at Ogini Rock, Alebtong Town Council, on January 5. Many schoolgoing children will not be able to return to school after famine hit several households in the district. PHOTO | BILL OKETCH  

What you need to know:

  • Mr Richard Apenyo of Abongo-awobi Village, Oculukori Parish, in Omoro Sub-county, says many households are selling animals to buy food. 

Hundreds of schoolgoing children from Alebtong District are stranded in villages after famine affected several households. 

Learners resumed studies after the government reopened schools yesterday following two years of stay-at-home measures put in place to control the spread of coronavirus.

Just like other parts of the country, residents of Alebtong derive their livelihoods from agriculture.  Unfortunately, in the last two planting seasons, unreliable rainfall failed smallholder farmers.  

Ms Anna Acen, a resident of Okut Village, Owaro Parish in Abako Sub-county, says she is now finding difficulties in feeding her five children.

Ms Acen’s husband, Mr Geoffrey Omara, says because of famine, their priority is food not education.

“All my children cannot return to school now because we don’t have money for school fees and even feeding has become a challenge. We are having one meal a day,” he says.

Mr Richard Apenyo of Abongo-awobi Village, Oculukori Parish, in Omoro Sub-county, says many households are selling animals to buy food. 

“I sold one cow last month and purchased some foodstuff for my family, but I don’t know what I will do next,” he says.

On January 5, Daily Monitor visited one of the a government-aided institution in Omoro Sub-county. 

At Omarari Primary School, four classrooms had been blown off by wind in 2019. They have never been reroofed. 

Now that learning has resumed after two years of closure, Omarari is likely to face a shortage of classrooms for Primary Two, Three, Four, and Five pupils.

Mr Tobbias Angol, the leader of Christians at Okut Main Catholic Chapel, says the church has encouraged the faithful to work hard when rain returns. 

Okut Main Catholic Chapel has more than 400 members.

“When they come to church, we tell them to always pray to God so that the creator can provide us with reliable rainfall this year. We also advise them to utilise the foodstuff they have sparingly, so that it can take them for some few months,” Mr Angol says.

He also appeals to the government to provide the locals with seedlings of fast-maturing crops.

In October last year, the government launched a new poverty intervention, Local Economic Growth Support (LEGS) in Alebtong District. 

Mr Paul Kasule Mukasa, the LEGS’ national programme coordinator, said the government secured a grant of $48 million from the Islamic Development Bank for the implementation of the two-year intervention in 10 poorest districts in the country, including Alebtong. 

Other beneficiary districts are Bunyangabu, Gomba, Kabarole, Katakwi, Kibuku, Kumi, Kyenjojo, Nakaseke, and Ntoroko.  “The purpose of the project is to help us improve on production and productivity in rural areas,” Mr Kasule said.  

2018 survey

A study commissioned by a Non-Governmental Organisation in four districts in Lango Sub-region in January 2018 discovered that locals were “so satisfied with life but they are very poor.” The perceptual study on happiness and wellbeing was conducted by Global Health Network (U) in Alebtong, Dokolo, Lira, and Oyam. Out of the 402 participants interviewed, 86.5 percent felt satisfied with life, but as the researchers dug deeper into their standard of living, the majority of the respondents were actually found to be very poor.

People in Alebtong were found to be the happiest compared to their counterparts in Dokolo, Lira and Oyam. But considering their income levels, they are poorer than their counterparts in the study areas. The study says that in general, 43 per cent of the people in the study areas were very happy. And only 3 per cent of poor people were unhappy.

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