Trapped between life and death, parents in famine-stricken West Pokot District have invaded local schools scavenging for food.
The situation has triggered tension in most schools as the parents scramble for food with pupils.
In Chepkobe Boarding Primary School, the effects of hunger are evident as pupils search for wild leaves and fruits to supplement food from the World Food Programme. The school with a population of 400 children suspended lessons to allow pupils trek long distances to fetch water.
The school head teacher Dominic Riangoreng said parents flocked into the institution and forcibly shared lunch and supper with the pupils. “We have tried to chase them away but they are stubborn and distressed by hunger,” Riangoreng told reporters at the school adding that the little food stock had been exhausted following the invasion by the parents and he is contemplating closing the school.
He also said that water shortage has forced pupils to hunt for Cactus plants because they are rich in water and help in preventing dehydration.
A similar scenario was seen in Nasukuta Primary School where parents queued for lunch of boiled maize alongside their children. The parents threatened to cause mayhem if barred from getting the food. “We are starving. We don’t have food at our homes. We are going to die if we are denied food here,” said Grace Longole.
Kapenguria Member of Parliament, Julius Murgor, says the food crisis has affected about 200,000 people in the large West Pokot District. The legislator said two people have died of starvation in his constituency and hundreds are in dire need of food relief.
Speaking to the Weekly Citizen after a tour of the constituency, Murgor explained that food sources have collapsed leaving the locals to rely on wild fruits and leaves for survival. Cattle, the main source of livelihood for majority of the locals, are emaciated due to lack of pasture and water. Murgor said people have migrated to Moroto and Nakapirpirit Districts of eastern Uganda in search of food, pasture and water.
The famine is largely attributable to poor rains in the past year which resulted in below average harvests. Violence that erupted following disputed elections in December 2007 disrupted agricultural activities. Many farmers lost crops and livestock and even land due to ethnic clashes. The affected farmers are still too afraid to return to their farms.