Lamwo district in Northern Uganda is facing a significant challenge with high cases of malnutrition, according to a recent survey conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The survey reveals that Lamwo’s malnutrition cases stand at 34.8%, surpassing the national prevalence of 29%.
The team leader of UNHCR in Lamwo, Cliff Winston Alvarico, highlights that chronic malnutrition among refugees is at 25%, while the host population is at 34.8%. Alvarico emphasizes that the increasing malnutrition cases indicate a lack of available food for the consumers. He attributes this to the limited accessibility of food due to the absence of retail options in close proximity, affecting both refugees and host communities.
During the launch of the African Women Rising demonstration, training, and research farm in Apyeta central village in Palabek Ogili sub-county, Alvarico advocates for making food more accessible to address malnutrition. He points out that the availability of food in Lamwo is low because people sell off their produce to buyers and use the money to purchase processed food, which is sold at a high price.
Alvarico identifies a high dependency syndrome, wherein refugees rely on relief food instead of being empowered to produce their own. He suggests a shift in focus from solely providing food aid to empowering refugees with skills and knowledge for self-reliance and sustainability.
Fivi Akulu, the Palabek refugee settlement commandant, reveals that the settlement currently hosts over 80,000 refugees, with 82% being women and children. She emphasizes the importance of refugees engaging in farming to improve their food security, urging them not to solely depend on food relief.
Akulu highlights the need to utilize the 2,290 acres secured from host communities for agricultural purposes. She aims to steer partners towards making the land productive to produce food locally for refugees, reducing dependency on external aid.
However, the high population of Palabek refugees is causing environmental degradation, with trees being cut for cooking. Akulu suggests the planning of woodlots as a solution to curb this environmental issue.
Lamwo LC5 vice-chairperson, David Odong Madiki, cautions farmers against selling all their produce and emphasizes the importance of keeping some for home consumption. He advocates for a change in mindset to encourage people to use their available land for self-improvement and poverty alleviation.
Geoffrey Osborn Oceng, Lamwo Resident District Commissioner, points out Lamwo’s significance in agricultural production in East Acholi. Despite bumper harvests, the challenge lies in produce dealers buying the crops immediately after harvest, contributing to food insecurity in the district.