Uganda has a population of 35 million and is growing at a rate of 3.2 percent per year. The country has made significant progress over the past two decades in terms of macro-economic growth and human development. The proportion of poor people has continued to decline from 38.8 percent in 2002 and 2003 to 31.1 in 2005 and 2006 and to 24.5 percent in 2009 and 2010.
Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, small deposits of copper, gold, other minerals and recently discovered oil. In spite of this, Uganda ranked 164 out of 187 countries on the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over 80 percent of the workforce. An estimated 90 percent of women in Uganda depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for livelihood.
Stunting among children aged five and under is high at 33 percent while underweight (14 percent) and wasting (5 percent) are in the medium range. Although food availability is not a major problem, food access and utilization are inadequate in many locations. This inadequacy has been exacerbated by high food prices and insecurity especially in the Karamoja region.
Uganda’s north-eastern Karamoja region is known for its chronic food insecurity and vulnerability to hunger, as well as poor access to basic social services such as education and health. A combination of chronic underdevelopment and recurrent drought in Karamoja coupled with persistent insecurity associated with cattle rustling, continue to undermine the capacity of households to meet their basic nutritional requirements. The level of poverty in northern Uganda (which includes Karamoja) is the highest in the country at 76 percent. Karamoja also has the highest levels of acute and chronic undernutrition in the country, with wasting at 7.1 percent and stunting at 45 percent.
Uganda currently hosts approximately 392,000 refugees (as at 01 July 2014) who have fled violence and unrest in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and other countries in the region. The majority of these arrived in the country in the last two years, most recently fleeing the conflict in South Sudan, and are unable to return home.
WFP’s programmes in Uganda aim to assist 685,000 people in 2014 and focus on three priority areas: emergency humanitarian action, food and nutrition security, and agriculture and market support, which includes the development initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P). These are implemented through a protracted relief and recovery operation (PRRO) for emergency humanitarian action and a country programme for food and nutrition security and agriculture and market support.
All WFP programmes respond to the Millennium Development Goals and are consistent with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Uganda. The PRRO directly contributes to MDGs 1 and 4 while the country programme corresponds with MDGs 2, 5 and 7. Furthermore, WFP programmes are aligned with and support the priorities and policies of the Government of Uganda.
The PRRO targets individuals who cannot meet their basic food and nutrition security needs. These include extremely vulnerable households in Karamoja, refugees, and severely and moderately malnourished individuals both in Karamoja and amongst the refugee population. WFP’s key activities under this programme include targeted food distribution, supplementary feeding and support to therapeutic feeding programmes led by UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). WFP is aiming to reach an estimated 498,000 people under the PRRO in 2014.
The country programme targets two categories of beneficiaries. The first category, assisted under the food and nutrition security priority area, consists of communities that have emerged from crises but are struggling to meet their food and nutrition needs and remain vulnerable to shocks. The beneficiaries comprise of communities and households in Karamoja. Key programmatic areas include resilience-building, disaster risk reduction and mitigation, and initiatives aimed at addressing chronic hunger including school meals and the mother-and-child health and nutrition programme.
The second category consists of individuals who can meet their basic food and nutrition needs but require increased incomes to become fully food-secure. This group consists of surplus-producing small-holder farmer groups, mainly in the eastern, northern, western parts of the country. The smallholders have limited access to markets of quality grain through which they can improve their earned incomes. Activities under this component of the country programme include construction and rehabilitation of market infrastructure, support to the warehouse receipts system, training in post-harvest management and promoting the use of modern household silos, the purchase of small-holder farmers’ produce, and a project aimed at reducing the domestic labour burden on women through the provision of simple labour-saving farm technologies.
In 2014, WFP has been engaged in research before it can introduce powders fortified with vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients. WFP would like to introduce the powders in 2015 in Amuria and Katakwi districts. Each pack of the powders will contain 15 vitamins and minerals that mothers or caretakers can easily add directly to ready-to-eat food for children aged 6-23 months. WFP is working in collaboration with the ministry of health, district local governments, UNICEF, the universities of British Columbia in Canada and Makerere and Centres for Disease Control-Atlanta. The introduction of micronutrient powders will be in line with WFP’s and the government’s priorities for control and prevention of micronutrient deficiencies in Uganda.