WFP to Launch New Emergency Operation, Change Approach in Uganda's Karamoja Region
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Published on 13 April 2010

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is changing the way it does business in Uganda’s drought-prone Karamoja region, with the launch of an emergency operation next week, alongside a new programme designed to better address the underlying causes of food shortages and malnutrition.

KAMPALA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is changing the way it does business in Uganda’s drought-prone Karamoja region, with the launch of an emergency operation next week, alongside a new programme designed to better address the underlying causes of food shortages and malnutrition.

The emergency operation will target 300,000 people for monthly food distributions. However, an even larger number of people – an estimated 400,000 – will ultimately benefit from the new programme, which will focus on strengthening and diversifying livelihoods and building community assets that can promote food security and development in Karamoja.

“Karamoja needs to find a way out of the almost continual need for food and other assistance and WFP is a vital part of the solution,” said WFP Uganda Country Director Stanlake Samkange.

Previously, WFP operations in Karamoja were mostly relief. In last year’s emergency operation, WFP reached more than a million people.

The emergency operation, scheduled to run until December, will target extremely vulnerable households with free food distributions, as well as providing for the food needs of malnourished children.

Under the leadership of the Government of Uganda, the Karamoja Productive Assets Programme will be aimed mostly at moderately food-insecure households. Participants will engage in building productive community assets and acquire skills through food or cash for work schemes.

The projects will include the cultivation of cassava, the production of cash crops such as gum Arabic and onions, and the creation of water-harvesting assets including low-technology dams. In addition, WFP will also support fuel and soil conservation, energy-saving technology including cooking stoves in schools; and tree planting.

WFP will work closely with partners including the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Organization for Migration.

The livelihoods programme will run for as long as WFP has the support of donors, the Government of Uganda and other partners.

With an estimated population of 1.2 million, Karamoja is the poorest and most marginalised region in Uganda. Over 80 percent of its people live below the poverty line. The region’s last successful main harvest was in 2005.

The region is prone to increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters, especially droughts, in part due to climate change. Relatively small shocks can lead to high levels of acute malnutrition. In spite of WFP and partner efforts, Global Acute Malnutrition rates in the region have remained above the emergency alert threshold over the last few years.

All WFP’s programmes align with and support the Government’s Karamoja Action Plan for Food Security, which stresses the need to reduce dependency and achieve lasting solutions to hunger.  WFP, the Government of Uganda, and the five Karamoja Districts have signed a Joint Action Agreement for Karamoja as a key step to fully implementing the Plan.

WFP needs US$25 million to run the livelihoods programme until the end of the year. The agency has raised US$5.2 million to date, thanks to contributions from Japan, Spain, Italy and Norway.

“WFP urgently needs more support from donors. Without it, we will be unable to seize the development opportunities facing us. Continuous longer-term food distributions cannot on their own end hunger in Karamoja,” said Samkange.