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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 19:33 GMT
UN warns of food crisis in Uganda
Villagers from Gulu, Pader district
The people in the camps are not receiving enough aid

While the Ugandan army claims it has won the war in the north of Uganda, there are reports that the humanitarian situation looks set to deteriorate.

The World Food Programme (WFP) stated on Friday that it is greatly concerned about the situation in northern Uganda where it says 800,000 people are now dependent on their food aid.

The 16-year war against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has seen mass displacement of people from villages into protection camps where they are reliant on food aid.

But now the WFP says it does not have the money to feed the increasingly needy population.

But while people in the north of the country desperately need food, Uganda is exporting maize to southern Africa.


The WFP says it is greatly concerned with what it describes as the deteriorating security situation in Northern Uganda and its impact on the humanitarian situation in the region.

It says that last month 520,000 people were in need of food assistance due to prevailing insecurity, but this figure has now risen to 800,000.

During its operation against the rebels the army told people to move to camps for their own safety - the result is that more people are now reliant on food aid from the WFP.

Ugandan soldiers
Army escorts have not stopped attacks on convoys

Despite the fact that the Ugandan army claims the war is now won - with the number of rebels significantly reduced - there is little sign that people will be able to return to their homes soon.

The army says its forces on Thursday night clashed with rebels in the village of Awere, killing five rebels.

Also on Thursday night, in Kitgum district, LRA rebels attacked Padibe village, and while the army says four civilians are still missing after being abducted, local officials say 20 people were abducted - news that makes it hard to give credence to the army's claim of victory.

Empty warehouses

And humanitarian workers in Gulu are far from optimistic that people will be able to leave the camps and farm in the near future, leading to a worsening food shortage.

The WFP on Friday predicted that the January harvest is expected to be almost non-existent.

But one problem with the process of food distribution is that the rebels also benefit.

Meanwhile the WFP says it is facing serious funding problems.

Students queue up for food in a Lira camp
All age groups are affected

Country director Ken Noah Davis told me that the warehouses are almost empty yet the population need 8,000 metric tons of food a month.

This looming food crisis in the north of the country comes at a time when Uganda is in fact exporting food.

Edward Rugumayo, Uganda's Trade and Industry Minister, says that during the past nine months Uganda has exported 31,000 tons of maize to Zambia.

When I asked him why Uganda would be exporting food when people need it in the north he replied: "That's out of my control - market forces at work. Because the food trade between Uganda and Zambia is in the private sector."

And while the exports look set to rise in the new year, 800,000 people reliant on food aid in northern Uganda have to hope the donors respond to WFP's call for funds.

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See also:

19 Dec 02 | Africa
04 Oct 02 | Africa
16 Sep 02 | Africa
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