COVID-19 impacts push urban centers, refugee settlements in Uganda to food crisis levels

Source: Xinhua| 2020-10-12 18:47:17|Editor: huaxia
Video PlayerClose

KAMPALA, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Negative impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown have pushed Ugandans in nine urban areas to crisis levels of food insecurity or worse for months leading to August, a new report has shown.

According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, the worst-affected urban areas were Gulu, Jinja, and Kasese where nearly one in three people struggled to find nutritious food on a regular basis.

The report showed that for the rest of the year, Gulu and Kasese are expected to remain at crisis levels even while their markets are supplied with harvests.

The analysis, which was carried out by the government and three UN agencies, measured food insecurity from June through August and made projections from September to December.

The IPC attributed the food insecurity to the loss of livelihoods in the informal sector, tourism, the travel and events industry, and the education sector. The reduced remittances and reduced commercial networks due to the closure of borders also explain the food insecurity situation.

Hilary Onek, minister for disaster preparedness and refugees, while responding to the analysis, said the government is committed to ensuring food and nutrition security and well-being for all people in the country, including those in urban areas.

"With these new findings, we now know, reliably, who the most food-insecure people are in Uganda, where they are and what we can do to save lives and preserve livelihoods. Such knowledge is critical before we take any decisions," the minister said.

"We thank our partners for working with us to come up with this very important analysis. We now must continue to work together to find solutions to the issues raised in the study," he added.

The survey also covered the semi-arid northeastern region known as Karamoja and refugee settlements together with their host communities.

The IPC found that refugees in all 13 settlements in Uganda along with more than 1.3 million Ugandans in refugee-hosting districts and the Karamoja region experienced crisis or worse levels of hunger between June and August.

The analysis showed that in Karamoja, all districts had worrying levels of malnutrition among young children and pregnant and nursing women, with malnutrition above emergency levels in Moroto and Napak districts.

The IPC attributed the high levels of food insecurity in refugee-hosting districts and Karamoja to the UN World Food Program's ration cuts for refugees, the lockdown, floods, and subsequent food losses. Animal and human diseases, insecurity in some parts of Karamoja, and reduced remittances also contributed to the situation.

"Ration cuts for refugees will remain in place until we secure sufficient funding. To be able to provide full rations for refugees in the settlements until the end of 2020, WFP needs nearly 15.3 million U.S. dollars immediately," said El-Khidir Daloum, WFP Uganda Country Director.

Priya Gujadhur, deputy representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Uganda said as part of the UN Uganda's Emergency Appeal launched earlier this year, FAO has appealed for 7.8 million dollars for food security, nutrition, and livelihoods interventions.

"This will allow FAO to provide agricultural livelihood support and training in climate-smart agricultural practices to help up to 10,000 of the most vulnerable households produce for their own consumption and diversify income sources through value chain development, thereby strengthening their resilience," said Gujadhur.

Even with coming harvests this year, according to the report, households will continue to struggle with food shortages partly because of lost incomes during the lockdown.

"All refugee settlements are expected to remain at crisis level at best. Food security should improve in nine out of 12 worst-affected refugee-hosting districts. Malnutrition is expected to decline in two districts in Karamoja in the coming months," the report said. Enditem