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Uganda families face food and water crisis

Thousands of families in Uganda face serious food shortages and many are already going without, disaster chiefs warned.

The east African country should also brace itself for devastating water shortages over the coming months, forecasters said predicting a long period of drought.

The ministry for Disaster Preparedness has put out public alerts warning of famine and severe water shortages which could lead to outbreaks of illness. It said it is already working on putting together emergency supplies and pinpointing the worst-hit families.

Forecasts by the meteorological department indicate that the country is headed for a long period of drought. The department has predicted that La Niña conditions, which started in July 2010, will affect rainfall distribution in 2011.

We are currently unable to plant since it is a dry season but the shortage of food will be felt around May-June after the stocks are exploited,” said Uganda’s National Organic Agriculture Movement chief, Moses Muwanga.

He said that the country will mainly run short on yearly crops such as bananas, coffee and pineapples.

For this situation, the effects will be different in various areas,” he told Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper. “For crops like pineapples and coffee, they are flowering but because of the dry season, the flowers will wither and as a result they will not bear fruit causing a shortage during what would be harvest season.

The lack of food will also create money problems for thousands of families who completely rely on farming. “The foreign exchange inflow into the country is likely to be affected because exporters will not be able to meet the demand on the market,” he explained.

Animal farmers are already feeling the squeeze, while dairy products are in short supply and the quality of meat has also been affected.

We are doing badly,” said farmer, Barnabas Nuwamanya. “In Masindi and Sembabule, the pastures have dried up and in many places there is no water. We are in a dilemma.

Mr Nuwamanya says the dry spell has reduced the quality of milk while that of beef has also dropped because the animals have lost weight. "The milk we have been getting from a single Friesian cow has reduced by a half especially to farmers practising natural grazing.

Twenty per cent of children in Uganda are malnourished and underweight, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. And 4.4% of the nation’s 29 million overall population are undernourished.

Hayley attribution