Why is Uganda not declaring drought a national disaster?

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Rains are not expected so soon until late much and even if rains drop, still food will not be available until June when harvest time reaches.

More than 10 million Ugandans are struggling with hunger caused by prolonged droughts and out of this number 1.6 million people are generally in serious urgent need of food to escape death.

By Nangayi Guyson, nangayi.guyson@alleastafrica.com

Kampala, Uganda-From Karamoja toTeso regions in the northeast and to other partsof East, North, Central, and Western Uganda, millions are crying out for food relief.

More than 10 million Ugandans are struggling with hunger caused by prolonged droughts and out of this number 1.6 million people are generally in serious urgent need of food to escape death.

Children living with HIV/Aids are dying of hunger and those still alive their health is worrying.

Children are missing school and those in already in schools are missing lessons due to the fact that many are fetching water for their schools before they attend classes.

The number of Karamojong children has increased on many streets are around the country.

Rains are not expected so soon until late much and even if rains drop, still food will not be available until June when harvest time reaches.

Much as all these problems caused by dry spells are on Uganda, the leaders of this landlocked East African Nation has not yet declared drought as a national disaster and called for International humanitarian assistance.

Kenya with only about 2 million people affected by hunger has already declared the situation as a national disaster and its people are getting assistance to halt the situation to go worst.

In search for answers, this paper approached leaders in the country both in the opposition and in the ruling party.

No reason for not preserving water and food

The FDC flag bearer in last year’s presidential elections in Uganda and a four time challenger to president Museveni, Dr. Kizza Besiegye said “there’s no reason as to why we should not prepare for bad times as this and store food for ourselves. There is no reason why we should no preserve water and food for the dry seasons, it’s just the failure of the regime. Besiegye said.

Ugandan president Yuweri Musaveni and the deputy speaker of parliament at food market in Uganda
Ugandan president Yuweri Musaveni and the deputy speaker of parliament at food market in Kampala

Human rights activist and former member of Pan-African Parliament of Uganda,MiriaMatembe also weighted in and cited a biblical example “When famine threatened Egypt in the biblical times, pharaoh decided to put Joseph who had predicted it in place to control and store food . There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. Uganda is not a people centered government, it’s a country of no action full of people who are only minding about making money- money all the time for themselves. They are building anything, everything in swamps and forests. They are the very people destroying our environment”. She said.

Children living with HIV/Aids affected.

In Katakwi District in the Eastern Region of Uganda, more than 200 children living HIV/Aids are at risk of starving to death as drought continues to hit hard

LoyceAkello, a clinic officer at katawi hospital “said “the majority of childrenliving with the HIV+ in the area are not able to have access to food like in the past. They use to look healthy but now you find a child of seven years looking like a person of 80 years and whenyou ask them they tell you they have not had food for the past three days. We really worried that this will weaken their immune systems. They will become malnourished and be exposed to other diseases that will kill them very fast.

Biodiversity destroyed

Over 86% of Uganda’s population has been depending on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods in the previous years. The country’s natural resource base has been considered one of the richest and most diverse in Africa because of its ample rainfall and fertile soils where harvests have been above normal which led to food prices decline in the previous years.

The country’s Biodiversity was estimated to be contributing about $1billion million per year in monetary, nonmonetary and informal sectors, and through provision of ecological service but as time has passed on, Uganda’s Biodiversity has been ignored. The country’s forests and wetlands are disappearing at a very high rate and experts are predicting that Uganda will not have forest and wetlands in the next 40 years. Drought has hit the country and access to food in most parts of the country is becoming inadequate and recent reports are showing Uganda is being hit by hunger year by year. Farmers are struggling to feed themselves and their livestock.

Uganda is estimated to be losing its forest coverat a rate of 80,000 ha per year implying the ecosystem services associated with the forest are also lost. In 1890 forests and woodland covered approximately 45% of the total land area, and is now estimated at 20%. About 30% of the tropical high forest now degraded

The Ugandan government has tried step up numerous sectors under the ministry of agriculturelike National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), Operation Wealth Creation, among others but these have not been helpful to the people as they are marred by corruption leaving Uganda a starving nation.

Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek said “it’s time Ugandans adopted farming practices that do not rely on rain seasons. We really need to style up on our farming methods and we also need to restructure our agricultural sector. We should stop being dependents and use irrigation and other advanced methods of Technology to solve food insecurity problem. I must say today that Uganda is really in a desperate situation and I’m really worried what will my people eat in the next months” he said.

He warned that “Uganda is not expecting rain so soon until late march. That means three to four months –that’s up to the end of July is when the people will have harvest.”

Asked why Uganda has not declared it a national disaster, he said “Uganda will soon declare it because the situation is so scaring and I appeal to Ugandans who enough to eat to help us.” Onek said

The Minister also said that China gave Uganda 200 containers of Rice each container  containing  about 30 but the Minister of Finance refused to release this food because they taxes on it.  “We are going to raise an issue where by Transporters are not taxed on their food day Imports the business my men are making money they don’t care and the increasing the price of food.

Food insecurity is now a serious emergency problem in Uganda and no proper preparations has been made by the government to address the issue.

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