A four-day, 750-mile journey through Karamoja Province, accompanying Melissa Wells of the United Nations Development Program, leaves a stark image of death and despair among the people here.

What follows is the diary of one day in the land of the damned.

OROM -- the first stop of the day, 12 miles west of the Karamoja Province frontier, shows the impact of the feared Karamojong raiders, who have spilled across the border in search of cattle and other food.

Maurice Okulu, the headmaster of the school where we distributed seven 200-pound bags of cowpeas, says all the cattle in the community were stolen in March. The raiders come back in groups ranging from 20 to 200 to take cassava, a root with little nutritional value, and anything else remaining.

Okulu describes the raiders as a melting pot of tribes in addition to the Karamojang: Malire from Ethiopia, Terposa from Sudan, Turcanas from Kenya, Somali bandits and the ubiquitous soliders from Idi Amin's vanquished army. Their weapons range from machine guns to spears.

The cowpeas are distributed to more than 200 children using handkerchiefs, scraps of paper, the tattered shirts they are wearing, tin cans, and anything else they can find to carry the precious bowlful of food for their families.

From the looks of their eyes, it is obvious that they are hungry, (but, as we will see by comparsion later, they are not starving).

PIRRE -- Crossing the Nangeye Mountains, we enter Karamoja on a rutted track that limits our Land Rover to about 5 miles per hour. In Pirre, there is no question that starvation exists. The evidence is exposed ribs, distended stomachs and shriveled breasts.

The raiders have been here, too, killing perhaps 20 people in the last three months and stealing up to 300 cattle.

The villagers don't tell us, we discover later that on a recent attack the raiders took dozens of women and repeatedly raped them -- a sure sign, according to missionaries, of the presence of Amin soliders. The Karamojong have never been known to abuse women.

KARENGA -- We take two starving children to the mission only to discover that the church is surrounded by scores of similar children begging for food. The Rev. Bruno Tinazzi, who has been in the province 19 years but says he has never seen anything like this, has just distributed the last 17 bags of cornmeal except for a dozen bags held for "emergencies."

Beyond the starving women and children, green fields, freshly planted but unable to provide their life-giving products for two more months, stretch to the distant mountain.

Before leaving we sweep out the back of the Land Rover to give the children the spillings from the bags of cowpeas.

KAPEDU -- What starvation does to people comes across with full force. Those with money in the village have paid for their share of a bull, which has just been slaughtered.

Wild-eyed men and women scoop up blood from the carcass in their hands and drink. Screaming men, women and children who are not among the lucky buyers are pushed away.

An emaciated man appears at my side like an apparition, begging for food. Like many of the Karamajong men, he is naked but he is a rarity because he is starving -- a condition usually limited to women and children in this male-dominated society.

KAABONG -- Sister Rosetta Fresa says that starvation here is so bad that mothers refuse to breast-feed their babies, fearing the infants will suck the very life from them.

She tells also of cases where children must be given food directly lest their parents take it from them.

Sixty bodies are buried in a nearby cemetery opened a month ago. Wild animals have dug up five of the graves, partially exposing tiny bodies, which are swarming with flies.

Amid the stench of death, the Rev. Elia Ciaietti tells the gravediggers, "YOU must dig deeper; you must dig deeper."