Mary Nakiru, a 13 years old female from Loputuk village said they struggle to burn charcoal or collect firewood depending on what’s in high demand and they take to a town that is about 10 kilometers away from the village to go for an exchange to get local brew residues as food.
Residents of Moroto have resorted to exchanging firewood for the residue of local brew due to the biting hunger in Karamoja sub-region. On Wednesday morning, URN visited some places where the local brew alias kwete is produced in Moroto town and found many children aged between 12 and 16 years old carrying charcoal and firewood tied alongside the bucket that would later be used for carrying residues once they find someone willing to barter.
Mary Nakiru, 13, from Loputuk village said they struggle to burn charcoal or collect firewood depending on what’s in high demand and take it to town about 10 kilometers where they walk village to village to exchange it for local brew residues, which they feed on because of food scarcity.
Nakiru explained that says she leaves home at 5:30 am with a bundle of firewood to make sure that she reaches town by 6:00 early in the morning to grab the residue. She noted that with the current situation, the local brew residues are in high demand since it’s the only reliable food everyone is depending on.
Esther Namer, also a resident of Loputuk village explained that they resorted to exchanging firewood for local brew residues because it’s the only food they can afford. Namer noted that whereas commodity prices have gone high, they have maintained the normal price for firewood and charcoal. She revealed to URN that a bundle of firewood costs between Shillings 2000 to 3000 while a basin of charcoal goes for Shillings 8000 but sometimes other customers bargain up to Shillings 5000.
Namer said with the high commodity prices, they cannot afford to buy food, the reason they prefer the direct exchange of firewood for residues. ‘’I come here to look for residue, that’s the only food that can sustain us. We used to buy a can of maize that measures 2kgs at Shillings 3000 but surprisingly the price has shot up to Shillings 10,000 when we are selling our firewood and charcoal at Shillings 5000. So how shall we manage’’ Namer lamented?
Asked whether the food relief from the government always benefits them, Namer said they get very little that can only sustain them for two days and yet comes once a year. Stella Arukude, a local brew dealer in Labor ward in the South division, says that they sell a bucket of local brew residues at Shillings 3000, while those who cannot afford to pay cash bring firewood, which they use for brewing.
Arukude says some of the young girls are engaged in casual labor in a town like fetching water but unfortunately they are underpaid or sometimes not paid at all. ‘’Some of them come to town to fetch water and they are paid as cheaply as UGX 100 for carrying a 20liter Jerrican and yet they fetch water 5 kilometers away from town,’’ she said. She also noted that others have resorted to working in people’s houses and they are only given food and return to their homes.
//Cue in ‘’ bring firewood, they come and collect residue’’
Cue out ‘’and they move to their homes,"//
Joseph Otita, the LCIII chairperson in Rupa sub-county told URN that the hunger crisis is worsened by the high commodity prices yet many households lack income-generating activities. Otita says those who fail to get the residues spend a night in town until they succeed since they cannot go home without something for the children.
He observed that even if the government brings food, it does not reach every family and yet everyone is too vulnerable, adding that the relief should be distributed door to door and at list weekly. Otita observed that although the government is trying to help out, there is a need for more Aid relief agencies to come on board and give the scores of people suffering some help.
//Cue in ‘’the residue they are taking is not for free’’
Cue out’’ the cheapest one they can afford is residue,"//
Esther Anyakun, the state minister for relief and woman MP Nakapiripirit district admits that the problem gets worse every day despite the government interventions to avert the situation. Anyakun said the situation is worsening and asked the leaders to identify the most vulnerable so that they can be supported urgently.
She confirmed that there is more food coming since the Belgium government has entered into a partnership with the World food program to address the food crisis in the Karamoja region. Anyakun noted that almost all the families in Karamoja are finding it harder than ever to put food on the table.
//Cue in ‘’We have been talking to leaders
Cue out:....to be able to bring more food to the region,’’//
In the Karamoja region, about 91,600 children and 9,500 pregnant or breastfeeding women are suffering from acute malnutrition and need treatment, according to the latest assessment by humanitarian agencies and foreign donors.