Northern Uganda Disaster Worse than Tsunami?
The world responded with immense generosity to aid those who faced the tsunami because the suffering was blatantly undeserved and unnecessary, and the onslaught was immediate. The horrors of northern Uganda are muddied, complex and raise difficult questions about complicity and responsibility that frankly most of us do not want to face. Most of all, the longevity of the war desensitizes us and we dehumanize the situation.
I saw a friend of mine from my youth tonight and after he asked me, "How was Africa?," he proceeded to talk about how "those people" use "machetes because they are cheaper to kill with than guns." I was overwhelmed thinking back to my experiences in Rwanda and northern Uganda, but moreso overwhelmed by how we in the West have dehumanized and demonized "Africa" as a land of massacre, slaughter and unexplainable horror.
"Northern Disaster Worse than Tsunami, Says WFP"
Monitor, 1 June 2005
The humanitarian situation in the war-torn northern region is worse than the Tsumani disaster that affected millions of people in South Asia, the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Representative, Mr Ken Davies, has said.
The Lord's Resisitance Army rebellion under Joseph Kony has displaced about 1.6 million people in the last 19 years.
"The response of the international community to the Tsunami disaster was great.
"But in northern Uganda we have a situation that has affected a lot more people than the Tsunami," Davies, told journalists yesterday.
The Tsunami earthquake hit South Asia in December last year leaving almost 2.5 million in need of relief assistance. The disaster evoked frantic emergency relief efforts world-wide, leading to donations amounting to billions of dollars.
Davies said more than three million people in northern Uganda desperately need WFP food relief soon, ahead of the start of the dry season next month. He said if emergency food supplies are not made available to over 1.4 million people in over 135 Internally Displaced People's camps (IDPs), "we are going to see an already horrible situation get a lot worse."
Davies was speaking at WFP headquarters in Kampala to announce the "Fight Hunger: Walk the World" charity walk due on June 12. The body aims to raise $2.5 million world-wide from the walk, enough to feed 50,000 children for a year. The walk will take place simultaneously in over 90 countries.
Davies said the walk organised in collaboration with TNT, a local courier company is also intended to raise international awareness about hunger.
The TNT Coordinator in Uganda, Mr Tony Ssenabulya, attended the press conference.
Last year alone, WFP fed over 2.8 million people with relief food worth $92 million.
However, WFP now faces a shortfall of more than 90,000 tonnes of food with a funding gap of $49 million needed to continue providing relief food to internally displaced people and refugees through to December 2005.
"We need more donor support urgently or we will run out of food in June.
"I am appealing to everyone to do something urgently," Davies said.
He said despite the ongoing peace efforts being facilitated by Ms Betty Bigombe, there is still widespread insecurity in most of northern region, making it impossible for the people to plant food crops during the short rainy season.
He said a looming food crisis culminating in sky-high rates of infant malnutrition and death, are inevitable unless emergency food relief is made available as soon as possible.
He said malnutrition rates skyrocketed last year when a similar shortage of food hit the region.
Davies said in addition to the IDPs, WFP is targeting to feed over 400,000 school children, half a million drought affected people in Karamoja and almost 0.2 million refugees.
WFP is providing daily meals to children in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Arua, Katakwi, Moyo, Soroti, Bundibugyo Adjumani and several others. Current WFP food relief needs are estimated at about 220,000 metric tonnes, more than half of which would go to internally displaced people in northern Uganda.