WFP running out of food for three million people

More than three million Ugandans, including 1.4 million people displaced by conflict in the northern region, are facing serious food shortages, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Wednesday.

"We need 90,000 tonnes that will see us through December," Ken Davies, WFP's director for Uganda, told IRIN. The required food aid is worth US $45 million.

"More than three million people need food ahead of the start of the dry season in June. We are going to see a terrible situation getting worse if we do not get food immediately," he added.

Those in need included 574,000 pastoralists in the northeastern Karamoja region, who are suffering from the effects of drought and have depended on food relief by WFP since January.

In addition, the WFP provides meals for 413,000 school children in the northern, northwestern and northeastern areas. The agency also supports 192,000 refugees from neighbouring countries and sponsors a food-for-work project involving 300,000 people.

"I am appealing desperately for help now. By the end of June we will start to run out of food, particularly cereals and soy-blended food for children," said Davies. "If we don't get the food, it means that malnutrition will go up, death rates will go up."

Davies said insecurity in northern Uganda continued to prevent people from tilling the land and planting.

"The severe impact of LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] attacks is continuing. Rebels ambush, kill and terrorise the area, making it difficult to reach the people. We are succeeding to reach the people, although it's a difficult task," he said.

Since 1988, northern Uganda has been ravaged by warfare pitting the Ugandan government against rebels of the LRA, a brutal insurgency that frequently targets civilians for attacks. The conflict has killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 1.4 million others.