The government has a constitutional obligation to establish national food reserves under Objective XXII (b) of the 1995 constitution. This duty helps to guarantee food security, mitigates hunger, prevents malnutrition and ensures that everyone enjoys the right to livelihood. COVID 19 pandemic has worsened malnutrition and related deaths in Uganda. Food reserves would have therefore been a critical tool in realising food security especially in times of unforeseen economic hardships or natural calamities like the COVID 19 pandemic.
Following the lockdown that commenced in March 2020, food availability and access were gravely disrupted due to lack of a sources of income to purchase food especially for the vulnerable people.. Several businesses closed off and many Ugandans who live on a hand to mouth basis were left with no source of food and survival., violating their right to survive
Food reserves go a long way in mitigating price shocks that shoot up in times like this where there was a lot of panic buying and stocking up of food supplies in homes. Once again, the vulnerable were left at the sidelines. Besides having no source of income, the food prices hiked and a significant fraction of the population could not afford it.
“The fear of dying of hunger was eminent especially to those with chronic illnesses and vulnerable groups like pregnant women, infants and the elderly. It is in times like this that the state should be questioned on the issue of food reserves which the state is obliged to establish as per the provisions of the constitution, but 25 years down the road nothing has been done yet Ugandans continue to face hunger and starvation” said Kabanda David the Execuitve Director of the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT)
The Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) filed a public interest food rights case in the High Court on the 27th of March 2020, challenging government’s failure to uphold and protect the right to food especially for the vulnerable during the Corona Virus Pandemic and government’s failure to give guidance on food reserves in the country, which is a breach of the provisions of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995.
The court however held that the government had other alternatives to food reserves including empowering farmers to store food and this was sufficient in fulfilling its constitutional obligation. The court also held that government had given adequate guidance on food access and availability and enough had been done in controlling hoarding and hiking of prices during the pandemic.
It is a sad reality that many vulnerable families are currently eating banana peelings; others are only taking a cup of black tea to survive the whole day. This is a violation of the people’s right to food and the right to livelihood. It is on these grounds that CEFROHT has filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision and demanding for government to fulfill its constitutional obligations in regards to the right to food.
“Without food support or guidelines for food access during and post COVID-19, many are at the verge of dying of hunger yet the right to life is fundamental to human existence. Food therefore not only remains a critical determinant of an individual’s survival but also becomes a determinant of their right to life,” said Obbo Geoffrey, the Social Justice and Litigation manager of the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT)
“We are in a situation where 87.2% of Ugandans are in informal sector, live on a hand to mouth basis; companies have so laid off workers , 56 % of the rural income is spent on food and 54% in urban with 41 municipalities, 122 municipal divisions and 357 town councils, with 48.1% being children below the age of 15, 1.6% being elderly people and 5.7% being people living with HIV/AIDS at the age of 14 to 59, and all these need food support,” said Janet Nyapendi, the Community Empowerment Manager-CEFROHT.
We are hopeful that this appeal will direct government to fulfill its constitutional obligations to its people. The right to survival and the right to adequate food are fundamental and must be protected, respected and upheld.
CENTER FOR FOOD AND ADEQUATE LIVING RIGHTS