World Food Programme Suspends Uganda Aid After Driver Killed

KAMPALA, Uganda, May 30, 2007 (ENS) - Gunmen ambushed a convoy of trucks delivering food for the UN World Food Programme in the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda on Monday, killing a driver. The world's largest food aid agency says because of the killing it will suspend operations in support of 500,000 drought affected people in the region.

World Food Programme, WFP, Country Director Tesema Negash said the agency "has no choice but to temporarily suspend our activities in Karamoja until security is improved."

Richard Achuka, 41, was shot in the neck and shoulder and died Monday when the gunmen attacked a convoy of four WFP trucks in Kotido District as they returned from delivering food to schools and other sites in neighboring Kaabong District.

Achuka was driving the lead truck in the convoy, which was escorted by the Uganda People's Defence Forces. The gunmen fled as the soldiers and three other trucks arrived at the scene.

The World Food Programme delivers food aid in northern Uganda. (Photo courtesy WFP)
"WFP condemns this vicious attack on a clearly marked WFP humanitarian convoy in the strongest terms and demands that the killers be pursued and brought to justice," said Negash, who visited the site of the ambush Tuesday. "WFP sends its deepest condolences to Richard's family."

"WFP appreciates the humanitarian implications of this suspension and we will take action as soon as possible to ensure the people for whom WFP is working in Karamoja don't suffer," Negash said.

Achuka, who joined World Food Programme in 2001, was from the Karamoja region.

It was the first killing of a WFP staff member in Uganda since a driver was killed in ambush in Arua District in the Northwest in July 1998.

More than half and million people will lose their food aid deliveries until security in the Karamoja region is improved. (Photo by Simon Crittle courtesy WFP)
In January, the World Food Programme started distributions of food assistance to a total of 500,000 people in Karamoja, hit by a third drought in six years. Karamoja is the poorest region in Uganda and has a single rainy season from June to August.

WFP rations are designed to provide 50 percent of the minimum daily energy requirement of 2,100 kilocalories and bridge the gap between families' basic food needs and what they can produce themselves or buy in markets.

Another 200,000 people in Karamoja currently receive WFP assistance through other projects such as food for education, food for assets and food for health, meaning that at least 70 percent of the region's entire population benefits from WFP food for emergency relief or development.

Malnutrition is the leading cause of death in the semi-arid region, which consists of five districts and suffers from the highest rates of severe and moderate malnutrition in the country.