A boy tends his family's goats in Karamoja. Coyright: WFP/Marc Hofer
For decades, the Karamoja region has suffered isolation, droughts, gun violence and more. With the largest and longest presence of any humanitarian agency, WFP has been there, filling gaps and working towards ending hunger.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reached over 730,000 people in the north-eastern Karamoja region last year while shifting its focus away from traditional food aid towards support for livelihoods, crop production, and greater self-sufficiency.
The Country Director, Stanlake Samkange, said today that WFP reached more than 330,000 extremely food insecure and malnourished people under an emergency operation. In addition, he said, another 300,000 received support through programmes aimed at strengthening livelihoods, while programmes such as school meals and the mother and child health and nutrition initiative reached another 97,000 people.
"We are trying to do three things in Karamoja," Samkange said. "We are focused on saving lives of people who cannot provide their basic needs, we are focused on children who are malnourished, and we are focused on helping able-bodied house heads to build community livelihood assets and better provide for their own families."
WFP changed its way of doing business last year in order to try to give traditional food aid recipients new opportunities and new encouragement in moving towards greater self-sufficiency.
As climate change and other factors have led to increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters in recent years, the risk of creating aid dependency has also increased as people struggle to scratch out a living.
WFP has continued to provide humanitarian relief to the most affected, while stressing the importance of more lasting solutions through building community assets. These assets can help people overcome food shortages and reduce malnutrition, while also enhancing their natural environment.
Working closely with the Government of Uganda, the community assets programme reached an estimated 300,000 people with development assistance in the lean season to encourage people to engage in public works programmes focused on strengthening food security.
WFP and the Government of Uganda enabled communities to establish nearly 60 surface dams, 55 acres of vegetable farms, nearly 1,700 acres of staple food crops including cassava, beans and sorghum and 110 acres of orchards and tree farms.
In addition, households were trained in making low-energy cooking stoves. These stoves are helping to reduce the cutting of trees while reducing the risks to women and girls as they go in search of firewood for cooking and selling.
Karamoja is the most food-insecure part of Uganda. The combination of droughts, crop diseases, insecurity, severe environmental degradation, poor hygiene and poverty rates above 80 percent has eroded people’s capacity to cope with crises.
Relatively small shocks can lead to acute malnutrition.
Even in the absence of a specific crisis, many communities in the region struggle with chronic hunger, which often causes stunting and therefore slow physical and mental development of children.