KAMPALA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) fed a record 2.85 million people in Uganda this year, thanks to the generous support of the international community. The biggest challenge was feeding some 1.9 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in misery and fear in the north of the country where the 18-year rebellion by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continues to wreak havoc.
"This was an enormous operation. On average, WFP distributed 16,500 metric tons of food each month in Uganda, making it one of the agency's biggest country operations after Ethiopia, North Korea and the Sudan," said WFP Uganda Country Director Ken Davies.
"Throughout this difficult year, we have been operating hand-to-mouth, but the international community - including private donors - was generous and responded to the needs of the Ugandan people by providing WFP with over US$92 million (over Shs 157 billion)," added Davies.
The LRA continues to maim, abduct and kill civilians and to enslave and rape children. Fear of such atrocities has confined hundreds of thousands of displaced people to camps.
"Children are the greatest victims. Living in misery in camps and frightened of being forced to join the LRA, they have been robbed of their childhood. The sight of thousands of children, scared of being abducted, walking into town each evening to seek safety and shelter in hospital compounds and schools cannot be tolerated in a sane world," said Davies.
"Their heartbreaking stories have inspired the outside world to take heed and provide assistance, and has also galvanised WFP to make every effort in our mission to end hunger here," added Davies.
Nearly 90 percent of all displaced people depend on WFP assistance for their survival. Food is scarce as many are not able to go to the fields to farm. The little that they do manage to grow is often plundered by the LRA.
In the Teso region, where the situation has significantly improved, WFP provided over 285,000 IDPs in Kaberamaido, Katakwi and Soroti districts with resettlement rations to assist them to return to their homes after the LRA was driven out of the area.
WFP has welcomed the efforts by the Ugandan Government to open dialogue with Joseph Kony's LRA in an effort to end the northern conflict, and noted that progress in resolving the crisis will create additional humanitarian demands.
"If the massive numbers of people uprooted from their homes and farms are able to begin to resettle in the coming year, additional assistance from the international community will be required. Assisting with the rebuilding of lives is essential for peace to take root," said Davies.
But the war-affected communities are not the only people in need. WFP also feeds some 400,000 school children, 190,000 refugees, HIV/AIDS affected people, orphans and street children and malnourished children and mothers. WFP is also working with small farmers to enhance agricultural production in a number of districts.
WFP is committed to supporting the national economy. In addition to purchasing nearly US$26 million in maize, beans and other commodities from local Ugandan traders and small-scale farmers' groups, WFP spent over US$5.6 million hiring local commercial transport companies to move food from the port of Mombasa, Kenya to its beneficiaries in Uganda, eastern DR Congo and the Great Lakes Region.
In addition to the highly appreciated in-kind assistance provided by the Ugandan Government, contributions to WFP Uganda operations in 2004 came from United States (US$44 million), UK-DFID (US$ 15 million), EU (US$7.3 million), Sweden (US$5 million), the Netherlands (US$5 million), Multilateral and private donors ($3.37 million), Japan (US$ 3 million), Belgium (US$2 million), Denmark (US$2 million), Canada (US$1.6 million), Germany (US$1.5 million), Norway (US$1.2 million), Finland (US$1 million), Italy (US$ 800,000), Switzerland (US$787,000), Ireland (US$602,000), Austria (US$475,000).
The largest number of WFP beneficiaries in Uganda in one year was previously 2.4 million in 2003. In that year, WFP fed a 104 million people in 81 countries.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003, we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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