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Update on Food Poisoning Investigations in Karamoja Region (27.05.2019)

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World Food Programme (WFP) halts distribution of super cereal while tests continue (03.05.2019)

As suspicion fell on Super Cereal as a possible cause or carrier of contamination, WFP acted swiftly, halting all distributions of the food first in Karamoja and then across Uganda.

ROME, Italy, May 3, 2019 – As a precautionary measure, the World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily halted distribution worldwide of a fortified blended food from one of its suppliers as tests continue to establish whether it is linked to outbreaks of illness in East Africa.

According to medical centres and hospital records, three people died and 293 were admitted to health centres in the Karamoja region of Northeast Uganda in March and April after eating Super Cereal, distributed by WFP. The product is used by WFP and partners to prevent malnutrition, especially among women and children.

Preliminary investigations have failed to conclusively find what caused the illness. To date, more than 2,400 food-related laboratory tests were conducted – including for mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides and microbial contaminants – but the root cause of the problem has not yet been established.

As suspicion fell on Super Cereal as a possible cause or carrier of contamination, WFP acted swiftly, halting all distributions of the food first in Karamoja and then across Uganda. Communications campaigns were launched to urge any people in Karamoja with remaining stocks to return them. These campaigns included using radio messages, focus group discussions, community dialogues and public discussions with elders and community leaders.

On 9 April, WFP halted the distribution globally of all products from the supplier in question. This involved putting on hold Super Cereal stocks in WFP operations in 25 countries.

In a further precautionary move, on 30 April, WFP ordered all stocks of Super Cereal from the same supplier should be secured in WFP warehouses and storage areas belonging to partners. Samples from the stock will continue to be tested to confirm or rule out any of the preliminary conclusions.

This issue is unprecedented in its implications for WFP’s global supply chain as the food supplies on hold around the world amount to over 21,000 metric tons, with an estimated replacement value of US$22 million. WFP has taken extensive preventative action as the health and safety of the people we serve is our foremost concern.

Super Cereal is maize or wheat blended with soya beans, fortified with vitamins and minerals, processed into a flour and supplied in 25-kg bags and is a critical part of WFP’s efforts to prevent malnutrition and save lives.

Operation Wealth Creation Handles No Procurement, No Money (26.03.2019)

Government of Uganda (GoU), World Food Programme (WFP) investigate Super Cereal issue in Karamoja (19.03.2019)

The Ministry of Health received an alert through its surveillance teams on the ground in Karamoja about suspected food poisoning and began investigations.

KAMPALA, Uganda, March 19, 2019 – The Government of Uganda and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are investigating whether there is a connection between recent illnesses reported in two districts in Karamoja and Super Cereal, a fortified blended food distributed by WFP for prevention of malnutrition.

On Tuesday, 12th, 2019, the Ministry of Health received an alert through its surveillance teams on the ground in Karamoja about suspected food poisoning and began investigations.

Some 262 people have been affected since 12 March with symptoms of mental confusion, vomiting, headache, high fever and abdominal pain. A total of 252 of those were discharged following successful treatment at health facilities in Amudat and Napak. No new admissions have been reported since Monday 18 March.

Seventy-seven of the 262 people were admitted in Alakas, Lokales and Karita health centres in Amudat district while 185 were admitted in Lotome, Lorengechora, Kangole and Apeitolim health centres and Matany Hospital in Napak district. The admissions took place between 12th and 16th of March.

There are unverified reports of three deaths, one of them at Matany Hospital, Napak District and other two in the communities. One male passed away in Lorengechora,Lookit village, Napak district and another female in Amuna village in Karita Sub County, Amudat district. All the deaths took place on 16th of March, 2019. The Government’s investigative team are in the communities to verify the two none facility deaths.

Samples of Super Cereal stocks and water were taken from the affected areas including blood, vomitus and urine from patients and are currently being analyzed at the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory and the Central Public Health Laboratory. Food samples have been sent to a laboratory in Mombasa, Intertek Kenya LTD and another in Johannesburg Intertek Testing Services, S.A. LTD, for further analysis. Preliminary results of the Government investigation are expected in the next 24 hours. While results from abroad are expected within the next 5 to 7 days.

The Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Mr. John Byabagambi, the Director General of Health Services, Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the Country Director of WFP, Mr. El Khidir Daloum, and officials of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards visited the affected villages, in Amudat and Napak district on Monday 18 March, and spoke to the affected people and health workers. The team found that the problem remains localized in only two of the eight districts of Karamoja.

Investigating teams from the Ministry of Health and WFP food technologists remain on the ground carrying out surveillance and epidemiological mapping to establish the associated factors and possible causes of this recent illness.

On Friday 15 March, WFP, working with the Government, ordered the immediate suspension of Super Cereal distributions in Karamoja and the refugee hosting districts where it’s distributed. This is as a precautionary measure until investigations are concluded. WFP is working with district authorities to retrieve all Super Cereal stocks from health centres and communities.

An intensive communications campaign is ongoing, advising people not to consume SuperCereal until further notice. Communities have been advised to observe proper hygiene and sanitation, for example through handwashing with soap and drinking boiled water.

Working through Government health systems, WFP has provided Super Cereal in Uganda for more than 10 years. The current coverage of Super Cereal is at 252 locations in Karamoja in addition to many sites across the 13 refugee hosting districts. Refugees receive Super Cereal in the general food basket.

Super Cereal is also distributed in many countries and has a robust record of fighting malnutrition and protecting pregnant or nursing women against malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of their child’s life. Super Cereal undergoes all the verifications of quality control before being distributed. No previous complaints have been reported about the product in Uganda.

Super Cereal is a key component in WFP’s support to the Government’s nutrition programmes that aim to prevent stunting or life-threatening malnutrition.

The goal of The United Nations World Food Programme is saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP supports governments and works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Karamoja affairs and WFP commit to conclude all investigations and share results with the public.

We appeal for calmness as investigations are going on and request the communities to report any suspected illness to the nearest health facility or call our toll free line 080010006.

WFP stops distributing blended food in Uganda as people fall sick in Karamoja (16.03.2019)

Museveni’s Mixed Messages in Mityana district!

People should not claim they are waiting for government programmes in order to develop themselves. A pig will not resist to be taken to the market for sale or slaughter just because the road is not tarmacked” Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on the 22nd July 2018.

There are some ironies with today, especially the mixed messages from President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. As he was saying that the public should not expect the government to deliver programs for their development, while he is supporting and his government through the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and the State Minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda who was starting Kisboka SACCO in Mityana District. So, it is weird that he is donating money to a project for development, while saying people shouldn’t expect the state to contribute funds. Is he dumb? Just take a look!

Our Commander in Chief H.E President Museveni officially launched and accepted to be the Patron of the poverty eradication drive called Kisoboka (It is possible) in Mityana North. The drive, that was initiated by State Minister for Tourism Hon. Godfrey Kiwanda aims to bring about positive mindset change towards poverty eradication, job creation and wealth creation mainly though agriculture; It is already very popular in North Mityana Constituency with over 250 households joining the bid to earn at least 21.5 million shillings per annum” (Operation Wealth Creation, 22.08.2018).

I gladly accept the request that I be the patron of Kisoboka SACCO and I will make a Shs50 million contribution towards its activities” (Museveni, 22.08.2018).

It is really not much to say, but if this works, the SACCO might do something positive to the public and citizens of North Mityana Constituency, however the OWC is not known for good seedlings and neither well-organized model of development. Therefore, this might fall flat and be empty promises to the district and constituency. We can hope for something else, but it might change for a very selective few.

This might just be another PR Stunt and a way for Kiwanda just to pocket money from the taxpayers or even shield his funds he is earning as a State Minister and MP. What is more ironic, is that the President talks of not waiting for the state to deliver development, while his state is launching possible development projects through the OWC. It is should be obvious. If he was a sincere man, he would see that.

He talks of not getting promises of development, while delivering a development projects… It doesn’t make sense.

That is just me though… I cannot be alone, but when you just have empty suits and yes men around you. You turn into this creature, this bloated arrogant prick who doesn’t see poverty; while living in lavish luxury on the state. Peace.

Uganda: Major National Review Recommends Ways of Ending Hunger in Uganda (27.07.2017)

Parliamentary Report spells out that the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) is a totally flawed initiative!

As the 10th Parliament and one of their committee has written a report on the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), this one lead by the man who is named General Salim Selah. There has been seen to see fruitful results to the government sponsored projects, that is for the cash-crops and other agricultural outputs. But the report that is made today in Parliament isn’t really saying much positive about the initiatives. As this OWC that are part of the Office of Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, he surely will looked failed together with Gen. Selah.

It is clearly stating the OWC as failed initiative, as the delivery is flawed, it is done without information sharing, without local knowledge or input into how they want it. The leadership from the top has decided and gives the seeds and seedlings when they feel like it. Without any concern of the districts and their OWC administration, as they do not have facilities for the deliveries done by the OWC. Certainly, there are decisions made by OPM and the General without clear leadership, neither listening to the farmers they are supposed to help to enrich. Instead, they are more delivering sub-standard services and not working for others than the ones on the top. Just take a look!

OWC is coordinated by the Senior Presidential Advisor on Defense and Security. He heads the team of directors at the headquarters in charge of inputs, low cost housing, value addition, pensions among others, They coordinate all activities of the operation such as planning, evaluation, supervision, monitoring and evaluation” (Republic of Uganda, P: 2, 2017).

Operation Wealth Creation distributes inputs late. Because of this, people do not pick them especially seedlings and they go to waste. For example when the Committee undertook the field visit to Agago, Oyam and Nebbi, it was informed that the inputs had been delivered late in September/October and were also planted late. The crops planted could not withstand the long dry spell that run from late November till late March and ended up dying” (Republic of Uganda, P: 3, 2017).

Most of the suppliers of seeds and seedlings do not own nurseries. They buy from uncertified nursery operators and end up compromising the quality to meet demand” (Republic of Ugandan, P: 6, 2017).

Some people complained that OWC “dumps” agricultural inputs that are not required by the beneficiaries for example the people of Nakaseke complained that they are given too many mangoes and oranges yet they would prefer food crops like maize and beans instead” (Republic of Uganda, P: 7, 2017). “OWC uses the top bottom approach. People are not consulted before supplying therefore people are sometimes given what they do need for example people in Kubuku district complained that they were given the variety of mangoes that they not need” (Republic of Uganda, P: 7, 2017).

OWC supplies inputs without informing the district leadership making it difficult for them to plan how to store and distribute the inputs” (Republic of Uganda, P: 7, 2017). OWC does not monitor the performance of the inputs distributed. This leaves the programme without data on which it can base the supply of inputs in the future” (Republic of Uganda, P: 8, 2017).

If these quotes are not proving that the OWC is totally flawed, it is heavily run by the General Salim Selah and under the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, who are in-direct charge of the OWC. The OWC seems more like a fine slogan and signs, but the secretariat are not controlling or informing as it should. Neither is it listening to the ones that are supposed to benefit from it. Secondly, the programme doesn’t even monitor the results. Therefore, the results and the evidence of the having it is more on the feelings of Gen. Selah and the President Museveni. Not on the farmers who could instead have district boards on Co-Ops on Inputs. Instead of a centralized Museveni family controlled organization, that is clearly not doing what is supposed to do. It seems futile and not to be there for anyone else, then the ones appointed by the President and the companies they buy the seeds and seedlings from!

OWC isn’t for the farmers and for growing better yields, right now it is a non-transparent, top bottom leadership without any care for the districts who needs help and need government subsidized seeds and seedlings. If it doesn’t change… than the government can just pocket the monies, instead of just spending monies at the wrong time, for the wrong farmers and for the late season for growing the seeds. Peace.

Reference:

Republic of Uganda – ‘Report on the Sectoral Commission on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of the Implementation of the Operation Wealth Creation Programme in Uganda’ (May 2017)

Bukedea district: NRM Government neglect to another level, they are stealing from their starving citizens!

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”Harry Truman (Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950).

Certainly, the National Resistance Movement and their government doesn’t seem to care how they look. None of their pledges or even written letters to the Local Government matters. Not even in the midst of famine and starvation. You would think that a government and their agencies had sense of keeping their promises to the ones who needs the most basic in life – as their plates are empty after droughts and bad governance. Therefore, the NRM has no sense, when the Bukedea district are reacting that their promised food relief is less; than promised from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Dr. Ruhakana Ruganda and his department. Certainly, this is disrespecting the people and the citizens of Bukedea. Take a look!

Mike Okwii, the district secretary for health and social services wants the matter investigated expeditiously before they can distribute what they have received. “According to the letter signed by the commissioner of disaster and preparedness, Bukedea was supposed to get 800 bags of posho and 400 bags of beans. But the district has received only 400 bags of posho and 50 bags of beans, which is shocking. So for us at the district leadership, we have decided not to distribute this food. Not until when OPM delivers all the food items”, he said. Okwii confirmed that as of now, nobody has given them any response as to why the Office of the Prime Minister delivered consignments that have fewer supplies that what was declared. “Nobody has given us the right answer why they delivered less food compared to what is on the delivery note. The minister for Teso Affairs is going to follow the matter because you can imagine the minister came to Bukedea to allocate food to the sub-counties. Little did she know that she allocated food which is not even there”, he added (URN, 2017).

The reason for the disrespect is staggering as the reports of termites and insects to survive, proves the lacking governance and upkeep of institutions. Also, the agricultural sector has been left behind, as the irrigation and thinking of how use water in farming. Certainly, the food relief is a way of making sure the people eat while they wait for next season and possible time to start farming again. These in regions that has been hard hit and the government had been warned by FAO and FEWSNET, so these reports should have forewarned them.

Food is required besides the medication. If someone is sick, the first treatment is food; medicine works well on a well fed body,” said Dr. Chebitai” (New Vision, 2017). Therefore, with the knowledge that the state still has the capacity to not deliver what so needed and necessary is not only a theft, but taken food of the plates of those who starve. That the NRM has the audacity to this proves how they can easily neglect their citizens. Even taking away their first treatment, that is the level of disappointment, the ruling regime can to do their own. Peace.

Reference:

New Vision – ‘Parliament staff donate food items to Teso’ (07.05.2017) link:http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1453187/parliament-staff-donate-food-items-teso

In the Teso Region they are eating termites to survive the famine!

There are something deeply wrong, so sincerely wrong when the citizens doesn’t get needed food relief and have to eat termites and insects to survive. This is the state of the famine now in Teso Region, in Katakwi, Amuria, Bukedea and Kaberamaido district.

Mr Robert Okitoi, the Amuria District council chairperson, said “The situation is bad, people are now eating termites. I think the government should just declare a state of emergency for the regions of Teso, Karamoja and Lango.” (NTV Uganda, 01.06.2017). On the 26th April 2017 the Parliament has passed a motion to declare ‘State of Emergency’ in Uganda, but the President and the State House has not done anything about it.

Still, a local farmer wrote a piece to the Chimp Reports that has some valuable assessments:

The current hunger in Teso has largely been attributed to drought, while this assertion may hold some truths; there is increasingly evidence that the Ministry of Teso Affairs has not done its part. Hunger in Teso is as a result of both internal and external factors. For many years, the region has been experiencing declining productivity and this was recently worsened by drought. For districts like Ngora, Bukedia and Kumi, land fragmentation has heavily affected productivity” (…) “Clearly besides drought, Teso food systems are in a crisis and our expectation was that the Ministry of Teso affairs working with other stakeholders would work to address this problem. Our view is that hunger should be among the ‘affairs’ that Ministry of Teso Affairs should be engaged in.Agriculture remains a major livelihood for our people in Teso and therefore we require urgent response from Ministry of Teso Affairs on its plans to help our people get out of the current hunger crisis”(Akorikin, 2017).

This here proves that the drought is just the last piece of the straw in a bigger problem, that even the State Ministry has not been in-charge and had the oversight of the Teso Region. There are lacking the support they need. Still, the government still have done something now and then. Like this one relief to Kaberamaido district: “Kaberamaido district has finally received 12, 000 kilograms of relief food from government valued at Shillings 33 million. Kaberamaido is among the districts battling a severe food crisis resulting from crop failure due to prolonged drought. The most affected areas in the district are Ochero, Bululu, Kobulubulu, Kaberamaido, and Apapai sub counties. With over 5,000 households facing starvation representing about half of the total population in the district, the 12,000 kilograms of flour delivered is far from solving the food crisis” (Odongo, 2017). That means on the 30th April 2017, the government delivered 12.000kgs of flour that is estimated to be 231,000 citizens in the district alone. Therefore, you don’t have to be rocket scientist to know that this food relief to the one district isn’t enough…

The minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Hilary Onek, has offered a bit of advice to the hunger-stricken; stop selling the little food you have left. Onek said the weather has become so unreliable for Ugandans to hold on to the little hope for better yields. “They should consider family needs first before selling all the food. Districts like Lira had a lot of food but it [food] was sold to traders from Kenya, South Sudan and even Rwanda because people want money,” he said in an interview. Asked whether government would consider banning the sale of food to outsiders, Onek said they wouldn’t, in the spirit of the East African Community. “That is not an option we will consider; we only want people to behave responsibly to take care of their family needs before they sell all the food,” he said” (UMDF, 2017).

So now the Minister Onek gives advice to the impoverished citizens, so that they are careful with their food stocks, as the relief of the districts are not up-to par. Therefore, that they didn’t stock the extra foods and now they tell the families to take of it. The government could have used their resources and built food-stocks, instead of living hand to mouth. The small-time farmers in the Teso-Region certainly, needs more than fear of selling what they don’t have, they need support and food relief.

The state also has to facilitate the farmers, not in Operation Wealth Creation or Jerry-Can irrigation, but real projects, storage of food-stocks and recreate farmers Co-Ops in the districts and sub-counties to collectively earn and work together to get better yields and also productivity in general. But that isn’t a scheme and way the National Resistance Movement can corrupt or thieve the funds from. Therefore, that will not happen and is the reason why the similar institutions are gone during the decades of President Museveni.

The Teso Region and these district needs help, the man-made famine together with the drought that has worsen it. So the Government has to charge and actually make a difference, not just thieve monies away from Kampala. Peace.

Reference:

Akorikin, Francis – ‘OPINION: Government Should Review the Relevance of Ministry of Teso Affairs’ (05.05.2017) link: https://www.chimpreports.com/opinion-government-should-review-the-relevance-of-ministry-of-teso-affairs/

Odongo, Ronald – ‘Kaberamaido Receives 12,000 KGs of Food Relief’ (30.04.2017) link: https://ugandaradionetwork.com/story/govt-delivers-12000-kilograms-of-posho-worth-ugx-33m-to-famine-hit-residents

Uganda Media Development Foundation (UMDF) – ‘HILARY ONEK TO HUNGER VICTIMS: DON’T SELL FOOD’ (01.05.2017) link: https://www.umdf.or.ug/?q=content/hilary-onek-hunger-victims-don%E2%80%99t-sell-food

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