More than 200 people die as drought ravages northeast Uganda

KAMPALA, July 19 (Reuters) - More than 200 people have died from hunger this month in northeastern Uganda, where a prolonged drought and rampant insecurity have left more than half a million facing starvation, a local official and a charity worker said.

Inhabited by nomadic pastoralists, the semi-arid and remote Karamoja region on the border with Kenya has long lagged behind the rest of Uganda in terms of development. A surge of cattle raids by armed groups this year has worsened the situation.

"People like the elderly, lactating mothers and children, they are dying silently in their homes. They just succumb to hunger," Jino Bornd Meri, the head of local government for Kaabong district, in Karamoja region, told Reuters.

In one county the district has recorded at least 184 deaths from hunger this month alone, he said.

Moses Okori, leader of the local charity Integrated Community Agriculture and Nutrition (ICAN), said he knew of at least 22 people who had died of hunger this month in Kotido, another district in the region.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) last month said at least 518,000 people, or 40% of the region's population, were facing high levels of food insecurity.

Local legislator Faith Nakut estimated that at least 600 people had died of hunger in the region since early June.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office, Julius Mucunguzi, said he had received reports of hunger-related deaths but was unable to give an exact toll.

The government dispatched trucks of food to the region last week, he said.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Angus MacSwan

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