KAABONG: Dr. Sharif Nalibe, the Kaabong District Health Officer, revealed that with renewed cattle raids and prolonged dry spells, malnutrition cases now stand at 19.6 % from 18.6% in 2021.
The crisis of malnutrition is among children five years of age. According to Dr. Nalibe, the situation has been worsened by the food shortage that has left about 20% of families without food. According to Dr. Nalibe, over 25 children aged five were admitted this month and studies showed that anemia is on the rise standing at 48.5%, and lower immunity among the children suffering from malnutrition.
Sandro Anyakun, the Kaabong District Nutrition Focal Person, said that in most cases the children discharged from the hospital end up returning within two weeks due to biting hunger at home. According to Anyakun, only 42% of the households in the district can access the required food quantities.
Anyakun warned that the number of children suffering from severe malnutrition might increase further if the government does not address the issue of food insecurity.
Meri Jino, the LC V chairperson of Kaabong district attributed the rising cases of malnutrition to the rampant cattle raids that saw the district losing over 55000 heads of cattle to rustlers. Jino said this is a huge loss to families because it affects their livelihoods as children can no longer feed on milk as they used to.
He noted that in the Karamojong culture, there is special milk reserved for the children to keep them healthy. Jino says that they have also registered cases of acute malnutrition among some adults particularly in the Sidok sub-county noting that this is a strong indicator of the hunger situation.
John Robert Lokong, the Kaabong District Agricultural Officer, says that the most vulnerable households are those headed by women, children, and the elderly. He says that despite the fact that they have registered a few cases of death resulting from hunger, the situation could get worse if the situation isn’t arrested.
Maria Namer, a mother of 8 and resident of Lokumomoi village in Lobongia sub-county explained that the malnutrition in her family has worsened due to food shortage caused by unprecedented drought and the renewed cattle raids. She explained that they cultivated some crops but ended up with a poor harvest last year.
Namer explained that she always wakes up early in the morning to roam around the wild in search of any edible green leaves to cook for her children but the invasion of armyworms complicated the situation because they can no longer trust the leafy vegetables. Anna Mary Lokuda, a mother of 5 and a resident of the same area, said that her family depends on porridge and sometimes misses it due to lack of money to buy more flour.
Lokuda said that she prefers porridge because only a little flour is used to make porridge for the entire family unlike preparing millet bread. According to Lokuda, she works in homes to earn money, which she uses to buy food for her family. “When you come back and there is no work the next day you can fail to go back to work because you are weak. All this work depends on the energy you have,” Lokuda lamented.
Everest Biko the head of programs and field generation for the WFP Karamoja region acknowledged the hunger crisis, which he blamed on the high commodity prices. Biko said that even when they introduced the program of “Karamoja Feed Karamoja”, where they buy food from the local farmers within the region, they have failed to buy the food because of hiked prices.
He explains that farmers in the green belt areas who produce enough food for Karamoja have also been charging highly yet they have few resources that can procure enough food for households.
Michael Lokiru, the field coordinator Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) attributed the high commodity prices on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which has pushed up fuel prices. He noted that the region relies on the supplies from the market and once the fuel is touched, it affects the entire economy because food arrives in the region at high prices.
The government working with UNICE, WFP, and FAO has provided support to avert acute malnutrition, especially for children below 5years. Sacha Westerbeekt, the chief of communication UNICEF Uganda, said that they have unveiled the system dubbed ‘Ready- to -use therapeutic food’(RUTF) that is effectively treating malnourished children.
She said they are working with sister agencies such as the world food program, FAO Uganda, and the government through the office of the prime minister and ministry of health to scale up the availability of this treatment in the Karamoja region..