Karamoja crisis: Let’s opt for social protection

Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro

What you need to know:

One function of social protection is to manage and reduce vulnerability…

Karamoja remains the biggest reminder of the ineffectiveness of the development tools and strategies we have adopted as a country.

Hunger and nutrition crisis in an area endowed with natural resources and sections of land capable of supporting agriculture is unacceptable. 

Karimojong children continue to be enslaved on the streets of Kampala, reduced to beggars. From the findings of Parliament’s  committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development on  August 18, it was established that some of the push factors for Karamojong children on the streets include limited social services, alcohol/ substance abuse, gender- based violence; connivance by parents and/or caregivers, hunger/famine, poverty, insecurity, and climate-related challenges.

These children are simply a symptom of bigger and chronic challenges that continue to plague the sub-region. Over the years, Karamoja has experienced food crises partially driven by extreme weather conditions.

 Climate studies and weather forecasts meant to inform proper planning and timely responses have often only attracted short- term emergency responses. These are costly not only in monetary terms but also the lives lost and overall human capital development.

Failure to invest in sustainable development initiatives that address climate shocks, food and nutrition insecurity, poor health, and education challenges in Karamoja is a recipe for cyclic poverty.

It is common knowledge that Karamoja is characterised by semi-arid conditions and unlike the rest of the country that experiences two rainy seasons, it only has one rainy season annually.

Studies indicate that the dramatic loss of livestock holdings since 2008—estimated at 70 percent—has left many households without livestock or below the minimum number of livestock required for a stable and productive herd. Therefore, we must invest in settled agriculture, especially in the western and southern parts where potential for good yields has been realised.

Importantly, social protection has proven to be an important tool in safeguarding and fostering people’s ability to meet their food security, nutrition and associated essential needs.

One function of social protection is to manage and reduce vulnerability through among others; provision of cash to the poor and vulnerable, rollout of weather-indexed insurance, public works programmes, emergency food aid and buffer stock management.

The senior citizens grant under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) is evident of the impact that timely and consistent cash transfers have on not only individual beneficiaries but entire households and communities.

There are also other social protection instruments aimed at contributing to raising household income and crop production, for instance agricultural input subsidies, as well as public works projects that construct or maintain physical infrastructure. The labour-intensive public works under the Office of the Prime Minister can therefore be tapped into to benefit the region.

Supporting agriculture is critical for the region. The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has to be deliberate to apply improved farming technologies such as irrigation schemes for production so as to help the communities graduate from food aid.

Schools provide a safe haven for children. There is  need to ensure access to education by constructing more schools and ensuring retention through provision of meals.

It is equally important for government to scale up efforts to address insecurity.  Government needs to be deliberate to not leave Karamoja behind and this can only be manifested through investment in interventions that respond to the specific and unique challenges of the region.

Ms Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro,  Kyegegwa Woman MP.