Parliament has approved the disbursement of five billion shillings as an emergency fund to stave off the worst effects of the food crisis in northern and northeastern Uganda.
A recent survey by the Famine and Early Warning Systems Network put the number of food insecure people in Uganda at 2.1 million. The crisis was caused by the impacts of floods in 2007, civil insecurity and three consecutive seasons of poor agricultural performance.
Most affected by the food insecurity are the Karamoja districts of Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit.
The approval of the government funding to help in the relief aid is in direct response to a request by the Ministry of Relief and Disaster Preparedness for 9.2 billion shillings for food aid. Last year the Ministry of Finance approved two billion shillings to deal with the effects of the floods and crop failure in the region, but this wasn't sufficient as harvests were much lower than anticipated.
Addressing parliament yesterday, Finance Minister Ezra Suruma, said the new funding was lower than expected because he did not expect the crop failures to persist.
Outside of parliament, Cabinet approved 22.5 billion shillings to be allocated to the different ministries to address the needs of the people of northern and northeastern Uganda. Last month the Italian Government donated 400,000 euros to the Karamoja region to support agricultural emergency interventions.
As the aid trickles in four volunteers working with the United Nations World Food Program in Karamoja have been arrested over theft of relief items.
The four, whose identities were withheld by the police to protect the investigations, were arrested on Saturday. Okot Obwona, the Northeastern Regional Police Commander, says they were caught taking the stolen items to a private residence in Moroto town.
Among the stolen relief items were bags of maize, sugar and beans, as well as several cartons of cooking oil.
The aid was intended for residents of Katikekile sub-county in Moroto who are facing starvation because of the food shortages.
Haine Tebresse, the head of WFP in Karamoja, says the agency is conducting a separate investigate into the case. He says the police and army have been asked to search all trucks leaving Karamoja to avoid the theft of relief goods, which are often sold on the open market.