WFP has appealed for US$64.6 million to feed up to 1.7 million people in Uganda until March to stave off hunger for victims of severe floods, refugees, and populations displaced by conflict and civil strife.
Without new contributions we will have to stop giving returnee rations just when these people need support to rebuild their lives
WFP Country Director Tesema Negash
While widespread flooding has recently affected at least 300,000 people, Uganda is trying to cope at the same time with an influx of several thousand potential asylum-seekers in flight from fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as existing problems of 1.4 million refugees and internally displaced persons within the country.
New and existing demands
And paradoxically, a September assessment underway in the northeastern region of Karamoja may recommend continued WFP assistance for 500,000 people affected by drought, straining resources even further.
“We are struggling to meet both existing and new, growing needs in Uganda,” said WFP Country Director Tesema Negash. “We particularly need cash now so that we can buy food locally and move it swiftly to those who need it most. Our teams are on the ground distributing food to flood victims, but access is difficult and without new funds, everything is in jeopardy.”
The number of people in need of food assistance because of floods could rise beyond the current estimate of 300,000.
More rains forecast
In addition to food, WFP needs funds for helicopters, boats and emergency repairs to bridges so it can reach people in villages cut off by rising waters. With rains forecast to continue through October, access could become even worse in the flooded Teso, Lango and Bugisu regions.
The US$64.6 million shortfall until March also threatens to force WFP to cut food rations for displaced families in strife-torn northern Uganda heading home at last after years in crowded camps. In August, WFP gave food to 122,600 people returning in Acholiland.
“Without new contributions we will have to stop giving returnee rations just when these people need support to rebuild their lives,” said Negash. “If we can’t deliver, it’s like falling at the last hurdle and it would be a sad way to usher in peace.”
In northern Uganda, WFP food rations are vital for more than 1.2 million people who were uprooted from their homes and forced into camps for the displaced by the 20-year conflict between the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Government forces.
Slow but steady security improvements over the past two years, coupled with peace talks between the Government and LRA, have encouraged some families to leave the camps to go home or to nearby transit sites, from where they walk daily to their fields.
On September 11, the first of 40 camps for the displaced in northern Uganda’s Lango region was officially closed. More are expected to follow.
Helping the displaced
WFP helped 226,000 displaced people return home in 2006. So far in 2007, WFP has given return rations to 205,000 and plans to reach another 100,000. This could rise if a full peace agreement is reached, prompting an exodus of families back to their home areas.
At the same time, WFP is moving fast to prepare for a possible larger influx into western Uganda of refugees fleeing fighting in the eastern DRC.
Over the past two weeks WFP has fed 2,000 people, and is braced for more. On the night of 30 August alone, some 30,000 asylum-seekers entered Uganda.
While most have so far been returning to DRC and have not moved to transit centres, this could change if fighting is renewed.
Resource shortfalls already experienced earlier this year forced WFP to temporarily reduce rations for displaced families and refugees. Shortages continue to affect other groups, including more than 500,000 children who now receive one school meal a day instead of two, and people with HIV/AIDS.