First ever airdrops in Uganda only answer after floods dealt another blow to isolated displaced

Published on 30 October 2007

When massive floods swept across Africa in September, WFP launched an unprecendented series of airdrops in Uganda to reach people who had been cut off. WFP spokesperson for Uganda Lydia Wamala reports on the displaced people who were already living in camps and who received another blow to re-starting their lives.

When massive floods swept across Africa in September, WFP launched an unprecendented series of airdrops in Uganda to reach people who had been cut off. WFP spokesperson for Uganda, Lydia Wamala, reports on the displaced people who were already living in camps and who received another blow to re-starting their lives.

The heaviest rains in Uganda in 35 years wreaked havoc when they hit the east and north of the country in September. Crops, huts and livelihoods were destroyed and infrastructure damaged, especially in the Teso, Elgon, Karamoja and Lango regions.

On 9 October, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran warned that the situation was dire for hundreds of thousands of people who had lost their homes, their belongings and most of their crops.

Lives turned upside down

Displaced people in Olilim sub-county in the Lango region in northern Uganda were just some of those who found their lives once again turned upside down by a factor beyond their control.

This time it was the weather that was preventing them from having enough food and the possibility of a proper home. In 2003 it was the insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that took them away from their villages and any hopes of a stable life.

Following a reduction in LRA atrocities in 2005, an estimated 300,000 IDPs elsewhere in Lango region abandoned the crowded camps and returned to their villages of origin.

Crops submerged

But IDPs in Olilim camp, one of three camps in a region sheltering an estimated 10,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), were only preparing to return home this month. They had already started spending some time in their villages while they were still living in the camps, and had planted their first crops in many years.

But their crops of mostly cassava, sorghum and sim sim were submerged beneath the relentless rainwaters. As the waters receded they left waterlogged gardens that were unfit for planting and growing.

WFP is often called upon when food runs out, but the heavy rains made it impossible to move assistance by heavy trucks as many roads had been cut off.

Airdrops

WFP had no choice but to launch airdrops for the first time ever in Uganda. As a result of the floods, it had been unable to assist Olilim’s 5,700 IDPs since last August.

“Resorting to food airdrops reflects the severity of the heavy rains and floods, which in some parts of Uganda are the worst in 35 years,” said WFP Uganda Acting Country Director, Alix Loriston, when the assistance started. “There is simply no other way to get survival rations to isolated people.”

When WFP staff arrived on the ground the situation was dire. All some people had to eat were wild vegetables.

WFP is aiming to reach 183,000 IDPs across northern Uganda using airdrops, but without adequate funding, these operations cannot be sustained. They are too expensive. WFP urgently needs US$3.2 million for airdrops, airlifts and emergency road and bridge repairs.