HIV patients abandon medication due to prevailing hunger

The biting hunger situation in Karamoja has forced persons living with HIV to abandon their medication. The hunger was triggered by the prolonged dry spell, which affected crops gardens for the last two seasons.

Some of the people living with HIV in Moroto told URN that much as anti-retroviral drugs -ARVs have been helpful in boosting their immune system and enabled most of them to live longer; they now skip medication because of hunger.

Madinah Adong, one of the persons living with HIV says the food crisis has forced most of them out of the hospital since they feel getting drugs without food in the house is dangerous to their health. She notes that a number of them are breastfeeding mothers on treatment.

Adong asks government to intervene before all the efforts to save persons living with HIV go to waste due to hunger.

Christine Ajilong, the Chairperson of persons living with HIV in Kaabong, says more than 210 people have refused to take drugs due to hunger. She notes that the families of persons living with HIV are in dire need of food.

Ajilong says more than half of the of the 1200 people living with HIV in Kaabong are facing a severe food crisis.  Dr. Dennis Esayu, the in charge Anti-retroviral Treatment- ART Clinic at Moroto Regional Referral Hospital acknowledges that the food situation has affected drug adherence among his clients.

He notes that most of the clients who visit the ART Clinic complain of hunger and don’t return for drugs. Dr. Esayu notes that food is highly recommended for persons on medication as some clients register complications when they take drugs on empty stomachs. He says some clients develop side effects like diarrhea, vomiting and nightmares in the short term when they don’t eat something before taking drugs while cases of anaemia among others are recorded in the long run.

”We have heard cases of clients resorting to alcohol [kwete] when they want to take medicine and this is not good for their health” Dr. Esayu noted. Kotido District LC V Chairperson, Ambrose Lotuke says the issue of persons living with HIV skipping medications has overwhelmed his desk and every meeting he attends at the district.

”Unless the situation is addressed, we’re going to lose more people especially HIV clients to hunger. The drugs these people take are very strong and require something in the stomach to keep them moving” Lotuke said in a phone interview.

He adds that the most affected in his district are communities in the rural areas as they are hit by high poverty levels. The HIV prevalence in Karamoja stands at 5.3 percent. Government last delivered food to the region in early February this year.




Kenya experiencing one of the worst drought, depressed villagers are opting for suicide

The worst drought Kenya is experiencing in recent years is driving some depressed villagers to commit suicide.
According to Red Cross officials in the East African country, an unspecified number of people have taken their lives as they could not deal with the suffering.
Kenya is currently facing drought that has affected millions who are struggling to get food.
“To some of the affected, they hang on strands of hope for the appearance of good Samaritans, while others have surrendered their fate to the ravaging drought,” said Noellah Musundi of the Kenya Red Cross Society.

The official said some 13 counties are in the alarm stage of drought classification.
These include Baringo, Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Lamu, Mandera, Wajir, Samburu, Turkana and West Pokot.
An additional ten are in the alert stage including Embu, Kajiado, Kitui, Laikipia, Makueni, Narok, Nyeri, Taita Taveta, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.
The drought situation follows poor performance of the 2016 long rains (March to May) and failure of the 2016 short rains (October to December) leaving 1,3 million people food insecure as of December.
The situation has since escalated in January to more than 2 million people and as of February, the figure has reached to 2,7 million of Kenya’s 46-million population.



-CAJ news

Museveni asks UNDP to back Government on swamp reclamation intervention

President, Yoweri Museveni has declared war on environmental degradation, walking over three kilometers across Mpologoma swamp and bridge along the Mbale-Tirinyi road as the sunset in Eastern Uganda.

Museveni who made on spot visits to Kaliro district, then to Namakoko swamp in Namutumba district and later walked across river Mpologoma on the Iganga-Tirinyi-Mbale road on Friday evening, said the country needs to put on new spectacles to address the issue of drought and starvation that are causing death and destruction.

To highlight the problem, Museveni invited along Ms. Rosa Malango, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support efforts by government to reclaim degraded swamps.

“When making an alarm for people to eat food, you are not too loud because you don’t want many people to turn up, but when making an alarm for war, you make it so loud so that many people can come to your rescue,” the President said, explaining why he had to reach out to the United Nations to partner with government to reclaim degraded environs.

The President, who used anecdotes to highlight the gravity of the problem, said as the country was pushing the development agenda including construction of roads, electricity, schools, health facilities alongside the campaign for wealth creation for poverty eradication, he got a call that drought has affected crops and the changing climate seasons and little rains have caused destruction.

“When you go to the bush and a small stick hits your eye, it is telling you to see properly. This drought and hunger are the stick telling us to see properly,” he said. Museveni urged the communities to restore granaries to store food, grow drought resistance foods and engage in commercial agriculture for both food security and incomes, saying this will help them save.

He said foods like cassava and millet can be stored comfortably to fight hunger. He explained that 60 percent of the rains in Uganda come from China and Indian Ocean winds. He said rain from the oceans is little this season and the cold currents reduced the amount of water, adding that the remaining 40 percent comes from local resources like Lakes; Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, George, Edward and from the wetlands.

“People started invading wetlands and planting rice, maize and making farms like in Kigezi and Ankole. Even the 40% of our water sources are affected. That stick is hitting us in the face. We need to see properly now,” he said. Rosa Malango said she accompanied the President to see what is happening with the food security situation and the wetlands and to share areas of cooperation.

“We need to protect water sources and reclaim wetlands. Support livelihoods through modern agro production (Irrigation), support small business enterprises and build improved storage facilities (Granaries/Stores),” she said.

According to reports, drought has plunged East Africa into the worst food security crisis Africa has faced in 20 years. More than 11.5 million people are currently in need of food aid. In Uganda, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, is quoted as saying the ongoing drought in several parts of the country is the largest threat to the projected growth in the economy of five percent.





Bukomasimbi North MP accused of vanishing with food relief as many residents starve

Bukomansimbi district officials are trading accusations over the food relief dispatched by the Office of the Prime Minister-OPM to aid starving families. On Saturday last week, OPM delivered 20,000kg of maize floor and 12,000kg of beans to Bukomansimbi for distribution to more than 40,000 people in dire need of food relief.
The relief was stored at Bigasa Sub county headquarters. However, residents claim that Bukomansimbi sub county leaders led by the Bukomansimbi North MP, Ruth Katushabe, her husband HB Matovu and South Buganda Regional Police Commander, Maxwell Ogwal broke into the store and made off with the relief food.
Muhammad Kateregga, the Bukomansimbi LC V Chairman accuses the officials of violating the stipulated guidelines for handling relief. According to Kateregga, the guidelines mandate the Chief Administrative Officer to distribute food relief. Kateregga claims that when Katushabe got the relief food she only distributed it to her campaign managers in Bigasa Sub County leaving hundreds of people in other areas starving.
He has also condemned Maxwell Ogwal, the South Buganda Regional Police Commander for leading the mob that broke into the store where the relief was being kept.

Isaac Musoke, a resident of Bigasa says the MP only distributed the food relief to her supporters and campaign managers. Musoke, a father of five children says his family is starving because they were denied food.

He says after serving her supporters, about 400kgs of maize flour was given to Joseph Kakooza, the Bigasa sub county LC3 Chairman who took it to his home.

Musoke also alleges that Issa Sansa, the former Kitanda sub county LC3 Chairman also got 300kg of maize flour. Other residents claim some of the food relief is being sold in the shop of Joseph Kakooza, the Bigasa sub county LC 3 Chairman, claim he has vehemently denied.

Kakooza insists that the relief food was distributed to all those who deserved it. Maxwell Ogwal, the South Buganda Regional Police Commander declined to comment on the matter. Ruth Katushabe, the Bukomansimbi North MP admits breaking into the stores of Bigasa sub county headquarters to retrieve the relief food.

Katushabe explains that although the relief was delivered on Saturday, district officials decided to keep it instead of distributing it to the starving families. She accuses district leaders of plotting to use the relief for political capital yet people were starving.

Katushabe also denies allegations that only her supporters benefited from the food relief. Bukomansimbi district administration estimates that 35,000 people who missed relief food are still starving.


Hunger and poverty strikes Iganga, families depend on raw mangoes for survival

A family of seven people in Bukyaye village, Nakalama sub county in Iganga district survives on half a kilogramme of posho daily.

URN visited the family of  Ajira Naigaga on Tuesday at around 7pm. Normally in most homesteads, this is the time to prepare the day’s supper.
But for  Naigaga, it was a different story. There was no activity in her kitchen and three of her children aged between four and 10 were feeding on raw mangoes in the yard. Her ailing father was asleep in the yard too.

She says that she waits until 9pm to serve supper to help the children sleep with something in the stomach since they never have lunch meals. She says she was lucky as her neighbour gave her three  egg plants to accompany the posho.

She adds that since her husband abandoned  the family, she leaves home at 8am, moves from house to house looking for someone to offer her a job such as washing clothes. She notes that in most cases she never gets any because people have no money.

Naigaga notes that her family has been having this one meal and at times none at all since October this year when her crop yields including potatoes, beans and maize dried up. She says that the pain she feels looking at her children starving is difficult to bear. Her husband abandoned her early this month after failing to afford the meal daily.

Naigaga is not alone. In the same village, URN visited  another homestead which had the same problem. Kaudah Edinansi, a mother of four says she and her children survive on raw mangoes for lunch. She says that  she lost all her yields to drought.

Her husband Bagala Patrick, a boda boda cyclist in Nakalama town has to buy half a kilogramme of maize meal or posho every evening for supper. But Edinansi says that in most cases he cannot afford to buy it so they sleep on empty stomachs.

Her second last born looks visibly malnourished and that doctors recommended foods such as milk, eggs, proteins among others to help the three-year-old baby to recover.
Dr. Kiwanuka Paul, the Iganga District Health Officer-DHO, says that the rate of malnutrition is worsening in most rural areas. He says the numbers have increased since August this year, adding that Iganga hospital alone  receives up to 20 malnourished children everyday.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns that Uganda and several countries in Sub Saharan Africa face acute hunger in the coming months due to failed harvest and stunted crops.

The organisation says more than 60 million people worldwide, about 40 million in East and Southern Africa alone, are projected to face hunger due to the impact of the El Nino and La Nina, a phenomenon which can cause heavy rains in some parts of the globe and drought elsewhere.