May 20, 2008 / 1:09 PM / 10 years ago

Hunger kills 28 Ugandans and forces some to eat rats

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Global price rises and floods last year have caused severe food shortages in northeast Uganda, where nearly 30 people have died and some have been reduced to eating rats, officials said on Tuesday.

A malnourished child is fed a meal in Uganda's Karamoja region, 700km (420 miles) northeast of Capital Kampala, were over one million people face starvation due to prolonged drought, May 19, 2008. REUTER/James Akena

The deaths occurred in the remote Karamoja region, an impoverished semi-arid area bordering Kenya and Sudan that is notorious for fighting over livestock and scant resources.

“From data we have collected, 28 people have died in the region as a result of an acute hunger situation, and the government seems less than bothered,” said Peter Lakodo, a member of parliament from Karamoja.

He said the people had died over the past six weeks.

Government officials acknowledged hunger had claimed lives and led to a desperate situation, but did not give figures.

“There are reports of people being seen with rats pierced on sticks. This shows that the hunger situation has worsened,” Aston Kajara, minister in charge of Karamoja, told reporters.

Uganda’s minister for disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru, said the global food crisis, combined with the impact of last year’s floods in the region, had hit Karamoja badly.

“There are two things that have conspired here — the floods of last year which destroyed crops and the fact that the competition for food regionally has gone high,” Ecweru said.

The U.N. World Food Programme says 700,000 people in the region could need food aid in coming months.

(Reporting by Frank Nyakairu; Editing by David Fogarty)

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