Uganda has had a stable national government since 1986. However the 21-year conflict, caused mostly by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since the late 1980s, has left the Acholi sub-region scarred. This part of the country is still recovering from the effects of armed conflict and displacement. Approximately 44 percent of people in the Northern region, to which Acholi belongs, live below the poverty line.
The Northern region also includes Karamoja, which is Uganda’s poorest sub-region. It is known for its chronic food insecurity, poor access to basic social services such as education and health, environmental degradation, erratic rainfall and recurrent droughts. A combination of these factors has undermined the capacity of households to meet their basic nutritional needs. Wasting in Karamoja is at 7.1 percent, overweight cases are at 31.9 percent and stunting at 45 percent. At the national level, stunting is at 33 percent, underweight at 14 percent and wasting at 5 percent. Wasting refers to low weight-for-height where a child is thin for his/her height but not necessarily short.
The geo-political location of Uganda makes the country vulnerable to conflicts in the Great Lakes region. Currently, Uganda hosts its highest ever number of refugees, over 433,000 (as at 28 February 2015). Nearly 70 percent of these are supported by WFP.
Uganda has a population of 34.8 million (Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2013) growing at a rate of 3.2 percent per year. Average life expectancy is 59, the poverty ratio 19.7 percent and per capita GDP is USD715. The country was ranked 164 out of 186 countries on the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index. The discovery of significant oil reserves is expected to boost future economic growth. The National Development Plan 2, which is due to come into effect in 2015, will focus on improving agriculture, tourism and growth through the minerals/oil/gas industry.
WFP’s programmes in Uganda aim to assist nearly a million 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 moderately malnourished individuals both in Karamoja and amongst the refugee population. WFP’s key activities under this programme include targeted food distributions in Karamoja, general food or cash distributions among the refugees, supplementary feeding among pregnant and nursing women and children aged between six months and five years in Karamoja and among refugees, and blanket supplementary feeding for children aged between six months and two years among the new South Sudanese refugees. WFP is aiming to reach an estimated 580,000 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 and the purchase of small-holder farmers’ produce.
Closely associated with the agriculture and market support/P4P programme and priority area is a project where WFP is promoting the use improved post-harvest handling and storage technologies (compared to traditional handling and storage practices) in an effort to reduce post-harvest losses at household level. This project is part of a larger joint post-harvest loss initiative between WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
In 2014, WFP was engaged in research before it could introduce powders fortified with vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients. WFP plans to introduce the powders in 2015 in Amuria and Katakwi districts in eastern Uganda. 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.
Also since 2014, WFP has been actively supporting emergency preparedness and response programmes of the government, UN and other humanitarian actors, including assisting currently with the establishment of a humanitarian supply chain.