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Uganda Faces Humantarian Food Crisis, says World Food Program

The United Nations World Food Program said hundreds-of-thousands of people in northern Uganda are facing a humanitarian crisis. The WFP says deteriorating security conditions and lack of resources are threatening the delivery of food assistance to these people.

The World Food Program said people in the Uganda districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader continue to be terrorized by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. They are victims of brutal attacks and kidnappings by the rebel group.

As the situation deteriorates, WFP said, growing numbers of people are fleeing into camps in search of security and food assistance.

At present, the agency says, it is feeding nearly 800,000 people. WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says this is an increase of nearly 300,000 over last month's beneficiaries. "Those people depend only on our food aid to survive, because it is very dangerous for them to get out of the camps. Some people have told us there are at least 20 persons a day that are abducted by the rebels, while they are trying to get out of the camp to find some food and some firewood. And, these people are abducted, and forced to join the battle in the ranks of the rebels. So the situation is very serious," Ms. Berthiaume said.

She said access to these people is very difficult. She also said WFP is the only humanitarian agency that can reach them, and this has to be done under military escort.

The Lord's Resistance Army has been trying to overthrow the Ugandan government for more than a decade. The group is accused of kidnapping thousands of children and using them as soldiers and sex slaves.

Most of those in the camps are too frightened to cultivate their land, said Ms. Berthiaume. As a consequence, she said, most have lost the August and September harvests, and failed to plant next year's crop in October. On top of that, she said, WFP does not have enough money to assist all those in need.

"Because of lack of resources, we had to cut 30 percent of the food ration in October of these people. And, if we do not have new contributions, we will have to cut them by 40 percent in January. When you think about the situation and the conditions of those people, this is very dramatic," Ms. Berthiaume said.

The World Food Program says it needs $24 million to buy 44,000 tons of food. It says this will keep hundreds of thousands of people in northern Uganda alive, at least until June.