On the last post, I asked you to pray for our National Director because he was almost killed delivering food in Uganda. Several days before, one of our volunteers, Brandi, sent me an article about the devastation the famine in this same region was causing - she just returned from a trip there last week. I can't believe that Children's HopeChest is beginning programs right in the area you're about to read about. WARNING: This is hard to read. Knowing that people are suffering on this level tears your heart out:
Kampala — JESSICA Akello and her five children gather around a fireplace to eat what is left of the two days' 400 grams of millet bread, the first meal the family has had in a week.
This is at Aketa parish, Katakwi district.
Too weak to stand, Akello scoops crumbs of millet from the saucepan to feed her emaciated babies with protruding ribs. She is is nine months pregnant but the situation facing her family has forced her out of maternity leave to find food and survive the biting hunger.
She does manual work in other people's farms everyday, from eight o'clock in the morning to three in the evening, to earn a paltry sh1000. She survived the ravaging famine of 1994 that claimed the lives of 200 people in Teso region, including her first husband. The region was emerging from three years of the Uganda Peoples Army rebellion against the government of Uganda.
While the war kept people away from their gardens, later, a five-month drought ravaged crops, drying up everything. Many resorted to wild leaves and mangoes for survival! Simultaneously, the Karimojong cattle rustlers violently raided all livestock, forcing the region's 1.2 million people into camp life and starvation. Akello says her family lost about 112 head of cattle. "My husband died of starvation after looking for food in vain. He was the first victim of hunger in our village," she says. She later re-married.
The few shillings she earns cannot sustain her family for a day and hunger is sapping her strength. The number of times she has slept on an empty stomach is countless. "There is nothing coming from either NGOs or the Government," says the frail 45-year-old mother. "That's why we dig for long hours." When it begins to rain after five months, it is feared the region will have become a graveyard!
Amuria district chairman Julius Ocen says already five people have died of hunger and 19,000 others in the district are starving. He identified the dead as Moses Asubu of Alito in Obalanga sub-county, Grace Imalingat, Francis Oryokoto, Takan and Opailum, all of Kapelebyong. Katakwi district agriculture officer James Epilo says there are also 55,000 people there starving, feeding on leaves, ash, cow dung and termites! At a village meeting in Akoro, a frail 80-year-old Immaculate Akiror hadn't eaten for five days and her stick-thin and pale body suggested uncomfortable evidence that the community is about to succumb to hunger-related diseases. Katakwi district health officer Simon Omeke says starvation is also causing anaemia, with baffling symptoms of severe wasting as well as swelling of limbs.
"Katakwi Health Centre 4 receives 100 cases of severe malnutrition of young children every two weeks. We are carrying out a malnutrition study and soon the results will be released," Omeke said.
Palapiano Kawunda, a 71-year-old widower says he hadn't eaten for four days and had to eat cow dung. He has swollen legs and the rest of his body is weak. He is suffering from severe diarrhoea. "I had taken a week without eating. Fearing death, I crawled towards a cow and ate cow dung," Kawunda says. Read the rest of the article here