An SMS message is being sent out from the Uganda Prime Minister’s office saying:
“A long dry season has been predicted. Expect shortages of food, water and pasture. Store food & water to avoid hunger.”
The drought is widespread, and all predictions are saying that it is likely to last into April. Many parts of northern Uganda are accustomed to nearly annual drought and occasional famine, but it is unusual for it to reach its parched hands into so many corners of the country. This is also the first time I can recall receiving warnings to store food and water, so I have a feeling this one is becoming worse than most.
Unfortunately, this warning is meaningless to so many people. If you are living day-to-day, lucky to be able to put one meal in front of your family, how are you supposed to “store” anything up?
Those of us who are cushioned by our relative wealth will ride this out just fine. Things might cost a bit more for a while, and there might be a few things we can’t get, but you won’t hear about Government Ministers or mzungus dying of starvation. That’s just not the way things work.
I haven’t seen much of a sign yet of a big mobilization of resources to address this problem. The Uganda Red Cross Society website seems to be down as I write this, but they and the World Food Program are likely to take the lead as this becomes more of a crisis.
You can donate to the World Food Program, but you can’t designate that you want your donation to go to Uganda debt relief. Regardless, they have saved a lot of lives in emergency situations, and they have recently increased the amount of food that they buy locally rather than importing from abroad, putting money in the hands of Ugandan farmers.
There isn’t much information on the web yet about this drought in Uganda, but if the rains don’t start falling, people and livestock will. That’ll start moving it into the headlines.
Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala