As drought destroys their animals, hunger stalks Uganda’s pastoralists

Start Network
Start Network
Published in
3 min readAug 30, 2022


The response to the food crisis in Uganda and elsewhere in East Africa falls far short of the needs.

© Fatima Khonat Start Fund Alert 275 (Landslide) in Uganda

The debate about when Uganda will achieve middle-income status was interrupted on 12 June 2022, when images of starving Ugandans flooded social media channels.

In the sub-region of Karamoja in Northeastern Uganda, a disaster is unfolding. Here, pastoralist communities — like their counterparts across East Africa — have been hit hard by drought, and their animals are dying by the hundreds of thousands. Neither humans nor livestock has enough food and water — a situation worsened by cattle raids and inflation. Those that engage in farming are struggling as well, resorting to harvesting their crops before they are ready, to save their families from starvation.

According to reports, more than 518,000 people in the Karamoja sub-region are facing food insecurity. About 91,600 children and 9,500 pregnant or lactating women are suffering from acute malnutrition and need immediate treatment, according to a recent assessment by humanitarian agencies and foreign donors.

The social support safety networks that poorer families used to rely on to reduce the impacts of shocks — through the borrowing of livestock , casual labor opportunities, and offers to pay for education and health care by better-off families — have been eroded due to repeated shocks. Families that were once better off have lost their assets, as well.

“If we don’t do something right now…these children will not do well in school. They will be stunted and their development, brain, and everything, will be compromised,” says Meri Jino, district chairperson of Kaabong district.

Malnutrition the worst in 10 years

In an article published by BBC Africa in April, the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs agency said the world is not paying enough attention to crises beyond the war in Ukraine, citing the devastating drought in East Africa. With millions of people across the region at risk of starvation, emergencies like this require awareness and immediate action.

“In terms of acute malnutrition, this year we have experienced the worst that we have had in the last 10 years,” says UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Alex Mokori.

A ray of hope

The government of Uganda has earmarked UGX 135 billion (EUR 35 million) to address the hunger crisis in the sub-region over the next three months, and Prime Minister Nabbanja and Members of Parliament representing Karamoja have agreed on some longer-term solutions to address the insecurity, drought, and food crises that plague this part of the country. For now, food aid is making its way to the area, but it is nowhere near enough. According to local organizations, the monthly rations available are not enough to sustain the affected households for even a week.

The top need in the area is sustainable measures for food security and for the government to scale up interventions beyond Karamoja.

Local and national actors in Uganda have not been idle. They are working together with district governments on a drive for donation funds and in-kind support, but skyrocketing inflation is undermining their efforts.

We appeal to international humanitarian agencies and donors for an immediate and urgent response to the hunger crises in the Karamoja sub-region and the Horn of Africa. And to the Ugandan government, let us replace the rhetoric of national pride with action that we can truly be proud of.

This blog is written by Eyokia Donna Juliet. She is a Project Manager for Disaster Preparedness and Response with Community Empowerment for Rural Development (CEFORD) an indigenous organisation in Uganda and an advisor to the Charter4Change working group. Start Network is a member of several working groups under Charter4Change.



Start Network
Start Network

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