KOTIDO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and the Office of the Prime Minister are collaborating under a European Union funded project to improve how the Karamoja region responds to food shocks. At the launch of the EUR 4 million (UGX 16.69 billion) Pro-Resilience Action project (Pro-ACT), the UN agencies and government emphasized the need for greater inclusion of poor and vulnerable people in Uganda’s entire disaster response.
An essential part of Pro-ACT is strengthening the District Disaster Management Committees to develop contingency plans that address the needs of communities. Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, the European Union Head of Delegation appreciated Government of Uganda for being at the forefront of all development and emergency programmes in the country.
“Thanks to Pro-ACT, local and national stakeholders will increase their capacity to share timely and accurate information that will support communities to prepare for and manage shocks. This action will also contribute to ongoing policy dialogue on Disaster Risk Financing and the Disaster Risk Management legal framework,” he said. “Without government, interventions, especially those that address climate disasters, would not be sustainable. That is why Pro-ACT supports national and local authorities with the resources they need to plan and deliver responses that effectively meet the needs of the people. “
The project is working towards strengthening shock response systems in all the nine districts of Karamoja through early warning on weather patterns and assistance that enables households take action to reduce their risk.
“We are glad the EU, WFP, and FAO brought this project to Karamoja because we need urgent support when it comes to preparing and responding to food security shocks such as drought,” said Komol Paul Lotee, Kotido District LCV Chairperson. “Our people are suffering because there was no rain, the crops failed, and they do not know what to do. This happens every lean season. Yet, we are never prepared. We need to give people timely and accurate information and improve their capacity to prepare for shocks.”
The lean season is the period between planting and harvest, usually occurring from March to July, when there is little food and minimal rainfall. The 2021 WFP, FAO, and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis shows that this lean season is worse than that of last year. A total of 361,000 people in Karamoja, 30 percent of the population, faced high levels of food insecurity between March and July this year. FAO has already piloted a drought early warning system to improve community preparation for the lean season and other cyclic shocks that affect food security.
“We are working with the Government of Uganda to build an effective early warning system for Karamoja that will predict, in time, food security shocks, and then support government and communities to prepare accordingly. Timeliness is of the essence,” FAO’s Deputy Representative in Uganda, Ms. Priya Gujadhur said as she emphasized the importance of strengthening the capacity of national and local stakeholders. “Early identification of risks linked to clear action will reduce the impact of food security shocks before needs peak.”
As part of Pro-ACT, the EU is contributing to WFP’s lean season response by providing a protective ration. The protective ration is assistance that will help reduce the likelihood of sharing specialised nutritious food that is meant for treatment of malnutrition in children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
“WFP is providing assistance to only a fraction of the people who need it in Karamoja. The frequency and severity of natural hazards in Uganda is only going to get worse with climate change and the number of people in need will grow. We must be smarter in the way we respond to shocks,” said Ryan Anderson, WFP Deputy Country Director. “Providing people with the information and skills they need to prepare is the most effective way of reducing humanitarian need over time. Zero hunger is possible only if communities have the right tools to manage shocks.”
Karamoja has consistently had the lowest development indicators in the country. At 66 percent, the region’s poverty rate is three times the national poverty rate of 20 percent and more than 30 times that of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, which stands at two percent. A WFP and FAO historical drought analysis shows that Karamoja has a 30 percent chance of experiencing a drought or dry spell in any given year, the highest in the country.
“Government is committed to ensuring everyone in Uganda, including Karamoja, has enough nutritious food. Through our projects such as the elderly’s Senior Citizens Grant and the COVID-19 relief funds, we have demonstrated that we are determined to reach the most vulnerable. We need partners such as EU, WFP and FAO to strengthen our response all over the country,” said Hon. Esther Davina Anyakun, Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees. “Our people need simple weather information that they can understand and act upon. Government welcomes the project because it aims to empower communities with information and provide sustainable solutions. Information is power and, in the case of shocks, information is lifesaving.”