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Parents in northeastern Uganda are sending their pre-school children to school with their siblings to share free school meals as more families go without food at home, Save the Children reports.

More than 40% of people are now hungry in the Karamoja region, one of Uganda’s poorest and most marginalized regions, which is a predominantly pastoralist community, a children’s rights group said.

Karamoja, which borders Kenya and South Sudan, is suffering from a combination of extreme weather conditions, disease and attacks by armed groups that have pushed more than half a million people to crisis levels of hunger.

Last year, settlements in Karamoja were affected by floods and landslides. This year’s rainy season, from March to June, was probably the driest on record since 1981[i] this severe drought destroys crops and livestock and causes water shortages.

In recent years, the situation in the rural areas of the north-eastern region has worsened. In June 2020, 27% of households were food insecure, rising to 30% in April 2021 and reaching 41% this April, with the crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine driving up food prices.

Save the Children said more than 91,600 children and 9,500 pregnant or lactating women in Karamoja are acutely malnourished and require urgent treatment.

Across the Horn of Africa, four failed rainy seasons have led to the worst drought in 40 years, leaving more than 18.6 million people facing an alarming crisis of hunger and malnutrition, spreading across the East African region to Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan.

Natalina, 10, who attends a Save the Children-supported public school in Karamoja, goes there with her four-year-old and two-year-old sisters, the youngest of whom is strapped to her back. She said: “Every day I come to school with my two siblings. One is four years old, the other two…

“I share food with my two siblings because they are not old enough to go to school, so I am the only one who gets food.”

Emmanuel works as a teacher at another school supported by Save the Children in Marota, Karamoja. He said: “When there is no food in the family and younger children follow their siblings to school, it not only reduces concentration, but also gives older siblings the additional burden of taking care of children instead of studying.”

Save the Children’s Country Director in Uganda, Strinick Dragana, said: “The fact that families are sending their pre-school children to classes with their siblings so they can eat is a serious cause for concern. We know that in some schools up to 200 siblings gather together to receive food.

“We are doing the best we can with the little resources available, but more needs to be done, especially now that schools have collapsed and children have been sent home for the August holidays without food.

“Karamodja reflects a larger global crisis. The next generation bears the brunt of the global hunger crisis and climate emergency it did not help to create. We call on the government and the international community to provide more resources to support the families and children affected by this hunger crisis in northern Uganda.”

The climate crisis is making extreme weather events such as drought and floods more frequent and severe, Save the Children says. Research by a child rights organization in collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Born in the climate crisisshows that children born in 2020 will experience 2.6 times more droughts and 2.8 times more floods in their lifetime than those born 60 years ago.

Save the Children provides food aid to more than 40 schools in Karamoja and a cash voucher worth UGX 150,000 (US$40) monthly to families with malnourished children to buy food. But for many families, sending young children to school with their older siblings is the only way to provide at least a day’s worth of food.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Save the Children.

This press release was published by APO. The African Business editorial team does not control the content, and the content has not been reviewed or endorsed by our editorial teams, proofreaders or fact-checkers. The issuer is solely responsible for the content of this message.

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