Prolonged drought has triggered food insecurity in Orom, the largest sub county in Kitgum district.

Locals in the six parishes that make Orom, some 60kms East of Kitgum town, survive on just a meal a day.  The area suffered drought between October last year and April this year.

Quirino Olum, the Orom sub county chairperson says an estimated 4,500 households are in need of food. He adds that 11 people have so far died.

He explains that it is very easy for someone to die of malaria after spending five days without proper feeding.

In Cam Gweng village in Kiteny Parish, many families surviving on boiled vegetable say their crops failed in the second half of 2015 triggering off acute hunger. This year’s first planting season was affected by erratic rains shortly after planting in March.

By June, the situation worsened further as fast maturing crops forming the bulk of their daily diets, including cassava that takes three months to mature, maize, beans and millet became stunted while others withered.

Jacob Ocaya, a resident of Cam Gweng village says the situation was worsened by stray elephants from Kidepo Valley National Park that trampled and devoured their crop fields. He says the village depended on pre-mature cassava leaves which have since been depleted.

Charles Otim, a trader in Orom trading centre says the food insecurity in the sub county has reduced many residents to beggars. This he says after their food stock became depleted under the weight of sharing with the needy.

On the way to Orom sub county, our journalist saw many gardens along the road that had stunted and withering corns without cobs.

Eighty-one-year-old Faustino Okwir, a resident of Cam Gweng village, a suburb of Orom trading centre does not recall the day he last had a decent meal. “The hunger in this place is too serious. I don’t know if it is because of low rainfall. Every day! It is starvation only. Worse for me who has no woman to boil for me vegetables,” the visibly frail Okwir narrated in native Luo language.

When asked to show his remaining food stock, Okwir emerged from his near collapsing mud and wattle hut with boiled vegetable soup he left over in the morning. Touching his belly, he said “this is all we have” and quickly moves on to drink it using a teaspoon with a broken handle.

Two food granaries in Okwir’s large compound have been colonised by creeping plants. Okwir told our reporter that it was in these two granaries that he had sorghum cereals and Simsim harvests. But because the first season was affected by drought, the stock got depleted.

Next to Okwir’s homestead are two widows harvesting fresh vegetables, the type the 81 year old man had ready for supper in his metallic plate. “To achieve taste, we mix Oyado with another local vegetable known as Malakwang for its sour taste. Nothing like bread or cassava to accompany it,” one of them explained.

According to 70-year-old Lakot Elmina, a widow with seven dependants, she has been selling her labour to raise income for food at the trading centre. She says her children enjoy a meal of Sardines and cabbages, once in a fortnight.

Joseph Odongkara, the speaker of Orom sub county council, says the last time families had stable food supply was two years ago when there was bumper harvests in all parishes.
Then, groundnuts, simsim, sorghum, maize, sweet potatoes and cassava performed well. Sub county authorities say all they could do was to highlight the matter for government to intervene as its budget can’t support those in need.

Odongkara says the problem has also affected education in the sub county.

Many people in northern Uganda still use rudimentary hand tools to open gardens. Coupled with the use of low yielding home-made seeds, residents say they have been unable to achieve food security as climate conditions keep on changing.