Govt, Nabilatuk leaders clash over hunger deaths

A woman helps an old woman drink water in Atedeoi Village, Lotisan Sub-county, Moroto District. PHOTO / SIMON PETER EMWAMU

What you need to know:

  • On July 20, 2022, the Nabilatuk town clerk, Mr John Longolio, authored a report, indicating that 226 deaths as result of starvation had been documented in Naupala, Central, Arengesiep, Lolet and Natopojo wards.

A sense of unease is brewing between government officials and political leaders in Nabilatuk over the number of deaths as result of starvation in the district.

 On July 20, 2022, the Nabilatuk town clerk, Mr John Longolio, authored a report, indicating that 226 deaths as result of starvation had been documented in Naupala, Central, Arengesiep, Lolet and Natopojo wards.

 However, the figure was disputed by the Resident District Commissioner, Mr Kyeyune Ssenyonjo, prompting a verification exercise.

 The verification exercise, which ended on August 8, confirmed that 142 children and elders in the area have starved to death since March.

 The district chairperson, Mr Paul Lokol, told the Monitor on Monday that despite the contention on the figures, the deaths are still alarming.

He added that it is immoral for some people to continue questioning the death toll in Karamoja as result of starvation.

 “Even though it is one person who has died, all we need are solutions to the current problem; where is the Shs135b which the good son of Kaguta [President Museveni] gave to Karamoja for food relief?” he wondered.

 Mr Lokol said amid the bickering over figures, people continue to die as a result of starvation, and this is what government should focus on addressing.

“On Monday alone, we lost four people; three children and an elder in Nabilatuk Town Council, must we conceal that too?” he wondered.

 He said no one has the moral authority to dispute the death toll as a result of famine, adding that the government should declare a state of disaster in Karamoja.

 Mr Lokol said in May, the United Nations World Food Programme reported the rate of acute malnutrition in Nabilatuk to be at 11 percent but this has now been reported to have reached 23 percent. This, he said, is an indication that the rate of hunger in the area is alarming. But RDC Kyeyune told this newspaper that much as there are reports of death due to starvation, he will only approve the figures if they are certified by a medical report.

 He said inadequacy of food is not hunger, adding that since May, government has been delivering food to the area.

 “But relief is not complete solution, as far as I am concerned. The Karimojong should engage in production of food,” he said. Mr Kyeyune appealed to the Karamoja leaders to focus on appealing to their people to engage in food production, adding that there are green belts in the area good for farming but because of insecurity, those belts are not being harnessed.

“Show us gardens that have failed, this is a dehumanising situation of beggars,” he added.

He said government has been intervening to solve the food crisis in the area and since May 2022, they have delivered received 20,000 kilogrammes of posho and 10,000 kilogrammes of beans to Lolachat Sub-county alone

 The State minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Ms Esther Anyakun, also said since December 2021, the government has been delivering relief to Karamoja in phases.

 Ms Anyakun, who is also the Woman Member of Parliament for Nakapiripirit, said more food was delivered in April, May, June and July, adding that that food ought to be given to the most vulnerable persons.

The Napak Woman MP, Ms Faith Nakut, recently asked the government to boost production in the sub-region and promote a highly mechanised agriculture and livestock sector to sustain the population.

Government has attributed the hunger to effects of climate change, cattle rustling and insecurity.

Rising trend

Key concerns

 In a brief to Parliament about the worsening famine situation in Karamoja Sub-region on July 14, the State Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Ms Esther Anyakun, said: “517,800 representing 41 per cent of the population have been at risk of food shortage between March and July. Eighty percent will last a month. Only 3 per cent have stocks to last three months or more.” Eight in every 10 households in Karamoja are either critically food-insecure or simply food-insecure, according to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and government of Uganda statistics, meaning they have no food to eat or limited stock, barely lasting a month to three.

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