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COVID-19: Govt warns of severe food shortage

By Taddeo Bwambale

Added 15th July 2020 10:58 PM

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, said many more districts including Kampala, Hoima, Kikuube and Wakiso are at risk of food shortage

COVID-19: Govt warns of severe food shortage

Zhuqiang (second-left) handing over a dummy cheque of sh194m to Onek. This was in the Prime Minister’s office in Kampala on Tuesday. (Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo)

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, said many more districts including Kampala, Hoima, Kikuube and Wakiso are at risk of food shortage

HEALTH   DISASTER   COVID-19

Uganda is bracing for a severe food shortage over the next four months, resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather conditions, officials have said. 

The state minister for relief and disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru, told a delegation of officials led by the China's Ambassador to Uganda, Zheng Zhuqiang, who visited the Office of the Prime Minister, yesterday, that the food shortages were predicted to occur between November this year and March next year. 

The exact number of those at risk of food shortage remains unclear, but recent estimates show that over 300,000 people have been displaced and lost their livelihood due to natural disasters. 

In western Uganda districts including Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko over 110,000 people were displaced by floods that razed hundreds of acres of food crops to the ground in May this year. 

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, said many more districts including Kampala, Hoima, Kikuube and Wakiso are at risk of food shortage. 

Onek said fishing communities around the Lake Victoria islands were among the most affected as many businesses were submerged by flash floods. 

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing food to more than 130,000 children in 300 schools across all Karamoja's nine districts that are at risk of a food crisis. 

Karamoja, a region formerly beset by insecurity, has recently been hit by floods, diseases and locusts, followed by the recent lockdown measures that have left many families without food. 

Separately, the Minister for Karamoja Affairs, John Byabagambi, said on Tuseday that the region was at an even higher risk of food shortages and malnutrition. 

Byabagambi said the lockdown left many parents without jobs and coincided with livestock being quarantined because of an outbreak of foot and- mouth disease. 

Prior to the closure of schools and lockdown, 84% of people in the sub-region were unable to access a nutritious meal regularly. 

With food stocks running low, many families have been forced to reduce the frequency and size of meals, until the August- December harvest season. 

Earlier in May, WFP warned that at least 20 million people across nine countries in the region were at risk of severe food insecurity due to pressures on their livelihoods arising from COVID-19. 

The agency named Uganda among the countries, along with Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and South Sudan.

The countries grappling with rising coronavirus cases have instituted strict virus infection control measures that in some cases have interfered with agricultural production. 

Zhuqiang on Tuseday delivered $50,000 (about sh184m) from the Chinese government to Uganda as emergency humanitarian assistance for families affected by recent disasters. 

Ecweru thanked China for the donation and said the funding would be used to provide relief supplies to families affected by disasters in Kasese, Bundibugyo and Kween. 

The minister appealed to the Asian country for support to deal with the looming food crisis. China has sent emergency food aid to Uganda since 2017. 

In 2018, China handed over 6,000 metric tonnes of rice to Uganda to support over 200,000 people in the Karamoja sub-region and later in 2019 provided food aid worth $10.4m (about sh38b). 

Zhuqiang said he had taken note of the request regarding food aid, explaining that the relief funding was to help communities cope with the ravages of multiple disasters. 

"We notice with sadness that the recent floods have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed many communities. 

At the same time, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and locusts, people find it even difficult to make a living," the Chinese ambassador said. 

The funding, he said, was in reciprocation of Uganda's support for China in the early stages of the pandemic, and in the spirit of friendship built over the years. 

He said the two countries are battling similar experiences, with China also grappling with severe flooding, especially along the Yangtze River, the third longest in the world.


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