Constrained by a critical lack of funds, WFP has said it would be forced from the beginning of April to cut by half food rations for nearly 1.5 million displaced people and refugees in
It is vital that we do not abandon the displaced at this critical stage in the peace process
WFP Uganda Country Director Tesema Negash
Though more than 230,000 displaced people returned home in northern Uganda in 2006 with WFP assistance, 1.28 million still remain trapped in squalid camps in the northern districts of Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader, unable to provide sufficient food for their families.
WFP also gives food to 182,000 refugees in Uganda and they too face reductions in rations.
In addition, WFP is providing drought relief assistance to 500,000 people in Karamoja region that is planned to last until June 2007 at a cost of over US$10 million.
Ninety percent of displaced people, mostly women and children, depend on WFP for their survival.
“Until we have sufficient funds to buy food locally, we will be forced from 1 April to reduce by half the amount of maize and beans that we give to each displaced and refugee family in Uganda,” said WFP Uganda Country Director Tesema Negash.
Grinding to a halt
“If we don’t cut them by 50 percent in the next few weeks, the relief operation would grind to a halt in May,” he added.
Since 2005, WFP has reduced rations to as low as 40 percent of the minimum daily requirement per person in parts of Amuru and Gulu districts.
In March, WFP removed nutritious corn soya blend for children’s porridge from the general relief package for families.
Cuts for children
If the shortage of funds continues, WFP will also be forced in May to make further cuts in maize and beans rations for 600,000 school children assisted by an emergency food for education programme, as well as some 240,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS.
WFP has so far received only US$37 million of the US$127 million it asked donors and the government to provide for relief and recovery support in 2007 for the 1.2 million displaced, 182,000 refugees and 500,000 hit by drought in Karamoja.
In 2007, some 170,000 metric tons of food worth US$90 million is needed to support these programmes.
Lord's Resistance Army
“Thirty-seven million dollars may seem like a lot of money,” Negash said, “but it costs WFP about US$11 million a month to sustain the relief and recovery operation in Uganda.”
“Even though the security situation in northern Uganda has improved and the peace process with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is moving ahead, the humanitarian needs of the people remain considerable,” he added.
“It is vital that we do not abandon the displaced at this critical stage in the peace process,” he said. “Even after they have returned home, we expect them to require humanitarian support until they are able to harvest sufficient amounts of food for their families.”
If the security situation remains stable and the government reaches a peace agreement with the LRA, WFP foresees a massive return of people to their homes in Acholiland.
To help displaced people voluntarily returning home, WFP provides a three-month return package to support them until they can plant sufficient food. “We cannot provide that assistance without some buffer stock,” Negash said.