“They are now surviving on leaves”: Catholic Archbishop in Uganda on Plight of Karamojong

Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere of Uganda's Kampala Archdiocese. Credit: Uganda Catholics Online

The Catholic Archbishop of Kampala in Uganda has called for the mobilization of food to reach out to the Karamojong people in the country’s Karamoja region who he says are “now surviving on leaves”.

Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere said it is shameful that the Karamoja people in Northeastern Uganda are suffering from hunger while other parts of the East African nation “have plenty of food”

In his homily on Palm Sunday, April 2 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral of Uganda’s Kasana-Luweero Diocese Archbishop Ssemogerere said that various media, “are showing us starving Karamojong, with nothing to eat. They are now surviving on leaves, and yet here in other parts of Uganda we have plenty of food. We can even afford to throw it away.”

We should feel ashamed and I think God is watching. He is taking Karamoja as Lazarus and the rest of the country, the big rich one, eating and not being considerate,” he said.

The Ugandan Archbishop called upon officials of Caritas Uganda to “take a lead” in mobilizing resources to feed the starving people of God in Karamoja. 


I pray that you take a lead, organize, and mobilize us, those who have got food, so that this food can be delivered quickly, especially during this moment of Holy Week and Easter celebrations, as a gesture of charity, to our brothers and sisters in Karamoja who are suffering from hunger,” he said.

The former Bishop of Kasana-Luweero continued, “I pray that Caritas Uganda does the needful quickly and I'm sure (with) others, the rest will follow.”

Local media in Uganda have reported acute hunger in the semi-arid Karamoja region.

According to the Daily Monitor, the Karamojong are surviving by eating leaves and nuts harvested from wild trees.

In a bid to curb the hunger crisis in the long-term, the Ugandan government has reportedly launched the tractor scheme, an initiative aimed at ensuring food security in the Karamoja region by providing tractors for mechanized agriculture.  

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Presiding over Passion Sunday Holy Mass that also marked the climax of the 13th National Caritas Week and the golden jubilee of Caritas Uganda, Archbishop Ssemogerere also called on Ugandans to work hard. 

“If anyone is unwilling to work neither should that one eat”, the Ugandan Archbishop said, referencing the theme for Caritas Week, and added, “Human labor is necessary for the good of the community.”

Human labor, the Local Ordinary of Kampala Archdiocese says, “is a gift from God and it is because God wanted us to work that's why he gave us all the brains that we have the eyes, the hands the legs, our bodies meant to work and not to sit idle.”

“Everyone has a duty to work. Through work men and women contribute to the common good in charity,” he said, and added, “If you are idle, you exploit others and you burden them.”

The Ugandan Catholic Church leader further said, “Idleness breeds crime. Don't sleep during the day and become a thug at night.”


While humanity is obliged to work, their economic activity “must be exercised within the limits of the created order in keeping with God as charged to him to cultivate the earth and care for it,” Archbishop Ssemogerere said.

“Man also has the obligation to protect and preserve mother nature,” the Local Ordinary of Kampala said, and lauded Caritas Uganda for taking a lead in efforts to protect the environment.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.