Coping with food shortages in conflict areas: a study of women strategies in Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps in Gulu District
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This study assessed women’s coping mechanisms/strategies with food shortages in IDPs. It specifically assessed the different sources of food, examined mechanisms/strategies employed by women in coping with food scarcity and explored challenges they faced while providing food for their families. An exploratory design and a qualitative method of data collection were adopted. It sought peoples’ experiences, attitudes and opinions with/towards food shortages in IDPs. KIs, in-depth interviews and FGDs were held with different categories of respondents. Document reviews were also carried out. Area of study was Gulu District in northern Uganda. Major source of food to the IDPs was relief food from WFP while other sources were own labour, production of own food and purchase of food from the markets. In the early days of encampment before the peak of the insurgency women used to sneak home to collect food from their gardens and granaries. They however, met with challenges/hardships like explosions of landmines that mimed and killed some of them. Some were raped and axed to death, while some were abducted and taken into captivity. These challenges, therefore forced them to stop sneaking back to their villages of origin to collect food. Women adopted a variety of strategies which involved rationing of food eaten per day, engaging in survival sex, stealing of their neighbours’ food and household utensils, working in/or renting host communities’ gardens for cultivation, ferrying sand for money, fetching water at building sites for money, crashing stones at quarry sites and selling the stone aggregates. Collecting firewood and cutting dry grass and selling. Gathering roots, fruits and green vegetables and engaging in small scale retail businesses like selling small fish (sardines) among others. Constraints or challenges faced were insufficient food which led to consequences such as trekking long distances to dig while postponing hunger, women engaging in survival sex thereby getting infected with HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies and abandonment by their “lovers” and separation and divorce by their husbands. Marrying off of young girls of school going age to businessmen, thereby putting their life and future at stake. Some of the girls were abandoned by these men and returned to their parent’s home (IDP) with children hence additional mouths to feed amidst scarcities. My recommendation is that WFP should continue providing food relief to families in IDPs and to those who have relocated from the mother camps to decongestion sites or village centers Therapeutic feeding centers at camp levels be provided to supplement food for the severely malnourished children, HIV/AIDS affected people, the elderly, disabled, pregnant and lactating mothers. Regular monitoring of nutritional situation in camps should be carried out. Home visits should be facilitated in order to identify and refer malnourished children to feeding centers and appropriate programmes aimed at aiding the self-sufficiency of the displaced populations if security remained stable should be designed.