Children left behind in Northeastern Uganda as mothers search for food



    
       World Vision fears physical and psychological toll on children

    -   International aid organization World Vision to begin food
        distribution in the coming days;
    -   457,269 people to receive 50,208 metric tons of food over the next
        year - valued at US$16.6 million;
    -   Canadian spokesperson, Marie Bettings, Communications Manager,
        Africa Food Crisis, in Uganda available for interviews.
    

    KAMPALA, Uganda, Jan. 30 /CNW/ - As people in Northeastern Uganda
continue to struggle with an extreme shortage of food following the third
consecutive failure of crops, international aid organization World Vision will
begin food distributions to more than 450,000 people on February 2.
    "We are very concerned about the state of children in Northeastern
Uganda, especially those in the Karamoja region," says Rudo Kwaramba, National
Director for World Vision Uganda.
    "Mothers have been forced to travel extreme distances to find meagre work
in exchange for some kind of food, leaving children behind who, in some cases,
are fending for themselves. These children cannot wait for food prices to come
down or for rainfall patterns to stabilize. They need support now."
    An estimated 2.1 million people are in need of immediate food assistance
in Northern and Northeastern Uganda, including the districts of Kaabong,
Kotido and Abim where World Vision will be starting distributions.
    A rapid assessment by World Vision found that in some regions, two-thirds
of families spent less on health care, education and agricultural inputs such
as seeds and fertilizer, in order to pay for food.
    "Children are being pulled from school, the sick are not being treated
and parents are forced to beg just for something to feed their children with,"
says Kwaramba. "Even in Kampala, 400 kilometres away from the Karamoja region,
we are finding Karamojong children on the streets trying to find their next
meal."
    In addition to distributing food, World Vision is calling on the Ugandan
government to implement policies and strategies that improve household food
security and resilience to drought, diseases and changes in food availability
and prices.
    Despite commitments by African Union member states in 2003 to spend 10
per cent of their budgets on supporting agricultural initiatives, most
countries have still not reached even half of that goal. Uganda currently
spends a mere 3.8 per cent of its national budget on agriculture - a sector
that employs more than three quarters of the country's population.
    To complement the food aid segment of its response, World Vision has
secured funding to begin agriculture and water interventions. The organization
is urging the Ugandan government to fulfill its commitments to water-source
development. This commitment, outlined in the government's Peace, Recovery and
Development Plan for Northern Uganda, is especially important for pastoralist
communities such as the Karamojong. Water scarcity compounds the already
difficult situation for pastoralists grazing livestock across wide stretches
of land.
    "A government has the responsibility to support all communities to find
positive coping mechanisms that are appropriate to their environment," says
Kwaramba.
    "Food aid at this point is a must. Without a broader strategy to address
why food security issues exist, however, we risk relegating communities to
cyclical dependencies on aid. It is not sustainable."
    World Vision donors support 135,000 children in Uganda, including 11,900
children supported by Canadians.

    
    Notes to Editors

    -   Communities across East Africa have been struggling with the effects
        of recurrent shocks in the form of erratic rainfall, drought and
        flood cycles and highly volatile food prices over the past year. More
        than 17 million people in the region are now estimated to be
        significantly food insecure. Resilience in these communities is being
        depleted and in areas such as Karamoja in Northeastern Uganda, where
        a majority of communities are pastoralist, each consecutive shock
        decreases the amount of livestock available for trade, sale or food,
        without any other available economic safety net to provide for
        children and their families.

    -   World Vision has worked in Uganda since 1986, conducting extensive
        community development programs across the education, health, food
        security, advocacy and emergency relief sectors. In 2008,
        World Vision Uganda reached more than a million people in more than
        37 districts with programming valued at roughly US$60 million.

    -   World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy
        organization dedicated to working with children, families and
        communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves
        all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For
        more information, please visit WorldVision.ca.
    




For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview with Marie Bettings,
Communications Manager, Africa Food Crisis, please contact: Tiffany Baggetta,
(905) 565-6200 ext. 2485, (416) 305-9612 (cell),
tiffany_baggetta@worldvision.ca


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