By Charles Ariko
A JOINT operation by the Government and the World Food Programme to avert famine in Karamoja and the neighbouring districts is underway, the state minister for disaster preparedness has announced.
Musa Ecweru said the operation would cost about $64m to provide relief assistance to about 970,000 people in need of food.
Addressing journalists at the Media Centre in Kampala on Friday, Ecweru said the operation would last up to October when the first harvests are expected in the region.
He said Karamoja was currently faced with an acute food crisis that was likely to result into famine if not averted.
â€œThe situation in Karamoja is bad but it is not out of control. Some parts of Teso such as Ngariam, Toroma and Usuk are equally in need of help.
Ecweru explained that the affected areas had not fully recovered from the 2007 floods that hit the area.
â€œWhen the floods affected these areas, cassava, which saves people in times of famine, was destroyed,â€ said Ecweru.
He added that when the Government came in to provide planting materials such as cassava cuttings, the area was hit by a dry spell and the crops dried up before the 2008 crop failure that left the region without food.
â€œThe size of the operation reflects the severity of the situation. Crop yields were poor in most areas.
â€œAcute malnutrition is close to emergency levels and we have 10 months to go until the next harvest,â€ said Ecweru.
He said the operation would be carried out in liaison with the local governments in the affected areas.
The WFP country representative, Stanlake Samkange, said the operation was also aimed at ensuring that similar food crises do not occur in the future.
â€œThat is why we need to place emphasis on medium and longer term solutions to hunger. We want people in Karamoja to become net producers, so that we can actually buy food from them for emergencies elsewhere in future,â€ said Samkange.