Delays in paying SAGE caused the deaths of 818 elders in Karamoja

Karamoja are ending up exchanging firewood with food residues from neighboring districts like Agago, and Abim.

By Okot Lil Romeo

 Karamoja – July 27, 2022: The communities in the Karamoja sub-region have revealed that delay in the payment of Social Assistant Grant for Elderly (SAGE funds) for over one and half years is a cause of the high deaths rate in the sub-region.

 Over 816 elders out of 1,300 have so far died of hunger in 14 districts. The deceased had not been paid for about one and half years. Some of the bereaved families say their elders were not paid because of claims that there was “a change from Post Bank to another bank”.

 According to chairperson Karamoja Association Nanagiro Simon Peter, the most affected people dying are the elderly and children aged below 5 years.

 Nanagiro, however, explained last week that elders are dying because the government has delayed SAGE funds for almost one and half years without paying the elderly, many of whom he said cannot feed themselves.

 He also confirmed that in Nakapiripirit district, 40 elders died; Napak 416 elders, Moroto over 200 elders, Kabong over 200 elders including other districts in the sub-region.

 Zachary Lomokol Kiyonga, LCI of Baja village in Boma North parish, Boma sub-county in Moroto district, said the insecurity, drought, and famine in Karamoja are causing high death rates.

 “Many men have been arrested by UPDF and taken to the barracks as suspects of cattle rustling; some lost lives, others are being tortured,” he added.

 He told TND News that over 570 guns have been recovered from the local communities since the UPDF took over.

 John Paul D. Kodet, chairman LC5 of Napak district highlighted that some local communities in Karamoja are ending up exchanging firewood with food residues from neighboring districts like Agago, and Abim, among others.

John added that some people are feeding on natural green wild Amaranta from the bush, while others, he said are harvesting unready crops to eat. “Elders are surviving on the local brews as there is no food to eat.”

 Paul Komol Lotee is the chairman LC5 of Kotido district. He disclosed that 19 sub-counties need humanitarian food support from the government. He also said most breastfeeding mothers are also dying.

 Lotee said from February 2022 up to date, over 1000 people have died in Kotido district with 330 from Renin and Longa sub-counties; 316 from Kacere Town council, and Kacere sub-county while 89 deaths were recorded from Kapeta sub-county.

 Jane Nalunga, the executive director of SEATINI Uganda, said with Karamoja’s hunger and deaths, there is a need for proper resource allocations in the agriculture sector to produce enough food.

State minister for the elderly Mafwbi Dominic Gidudu is demanding the Members of Parliament allocate a supplementary budget to increase Social Assistant Grants for the elderly to cater to their increasing needs.

Mafwbi noted that the budget for the financial year 2021-2022 was inadequate by shs36 billion allocated for the elderly SAGE fund, of which the minister of finance promises a supplementary budget that would enable payment of arrears for the elderly but this has not yet happened.

The total population living in Karamoja sub-region sum to 1.2 million people, and the government of Uganda allocated shs135 billion for food relief to the people.

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