The European Union –EU delegation to Uganda has launched a Sh16.69 billion Pro-Resilience Action project (Pro-ACT) aimed at helping the Karamoja region to respond to food shocks.
Nine EU ambassadors led by the Head of Delegation, Attilio Pacifici launched the project on Wednesday in Nakapelimoru Sub-County, Kotido district.
The project seeks to strengthen food shock response systems in all the nine districts of Karamoja through early warning on weather patterns and assistance that enables households to take action to reduce their risk. The contingency plans will be developed by the District Disaster Management Committees.
Under the project, the EU is collaborating with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the Office of the Prime Minister as implementing partners to ensure that Karamoja effectively responds to food challenges.
According to the EU, the project is aimed at improving the capacity of local and national stakeholders to share timely and accurate information that can be utilized to prepare for and manage food shocks. This will help households to act in anticipation of and benefit from early response to food crises.
Ambassador Pacifici, the EU Head of Delegation said that the project will help the government and partners to use evidence in order to inform policy and support the creation of sustainable systems and policies for disaster response.
“Disasters are putting immense pressure on social and human development, with Uganda being categorized as one of the most vulnerable countries ranking 14th among the vulnerable and 48th least ready country to respond particularly to hydro-meteorological hazards. Uganda’s economic and human development is closely tied to many climate-sensitive resources and sectors such as agriculture, water, environment, tourism, natural resources, health, transport and housing,” he explained.
Pacifici said that Karamoja is vulnerable and suffers high levels of food and nutrition insecurity, noting that in 2019, the region endured the most intense drought with almost 40 per cent of its population facing acute food insecurity.
He added that recent data under the Karamoja Acute Food Insecurity and Acute Malnutrition Situation study carried out from January to August 2021 showed that this year, 30 percent of Karamojongs are currently facing acute food insecurity and are in urgent need of action.
He noted that the situation was recently exacerbated by various factors such as the desert locusts, Covid-19 restrictions and increased levels of insecurity since late 2019 including loss of animals, limited access to farmland and limited engagement in other income sources” adds Pacifici.
Pacifici said that the new project will, on top of availing accurate data to prepare and manage food shocks, contribute to ongoing policy dialogue on Disaster Risk Financing and the Disaster Risk Management legal framework.
Paul Komol Lotee, the Kotido District Chairperson said that the project is key since they need urgent support in regard to preparing and responding to food security shocks such as drought.
“Our people are suffering because there was no rain, the crops failed, and they do not know what to do. This happens every lean season. Yet, we are never prepared. We need to give people timely and accurate information and improve their capacity to prepare for shocks,” he said.
The lean season is the period between planting and harvest, usually occurring from March to July, when there is little food and minimal rainfall. The 2021 WFP, FAO, and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis shows that this lean season is worse than that of last year.
A total of 361,000 people in Karamoja, 30 percent of the population, faced high levels of food insecurity between March and July this year.
Komol emphasized that Karamoja needs special attention and appealed for more support in areas of food security, health, education and others.
Priya Gujadhur, the FAO Deputy Representative in Uganda revealed that they have already piloted a drought early warning system to improve community preparation for the lean season and other cyclic shocks that affect food security.
She said that timely predictions and early warnings are of the essence and that early identification of risks linked to clear action will reduce the impact of food security shocks.
As part of the project, the EU is contributing to WFP’s lean season response by providing a protective ration which is assistance that will help reduce the likelihood of sharing specialized nutritious food that is meant for the treatment of malnutrition in children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
“WFP is providing assistance to only a fraction of the people who need it in Karamoja. The frequency and severity of natural hazards in Uganda is only going to get worse with climate change and the number of people in need will grow. We must be smarter in the way we respond to shocks,” said Ryan Anderson, the WFP Deputy Country Director.
Karamoja has consistently had the lowest development indicators in the country. At 66 per cent, the region’s poverty rate is three times the national poverty rate of 20 per cent and more than 30 times that of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, which stands at two per cent.
A WFP and FAO historical drought analysis shows that Karamoja has a 30 percent chance of experiencing a drought or dry spell in any given year, the highest in the country.