Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
Over the last two decades, Uganda has balanced strong demographic expansion with economic dynamism and significant social progress. Of a population now numbering some 37 million, less than a fifth live in poverty (down from more than half in the early 1990s). Mortality rates for under-fives have been cut, the incidence of malaria has dropped, access to HIV treatment has increased. Even so, Uganda remains one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked a modest 163rd for human development.
Occupying 241,000 km square at the heart of Africa, Uganda is richly endowed with natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, mineral deposits and recently discovered oil. Agriculture employs more than three-quarters of the workforce; nine out of 10 women are thought to depend on it.
While food is generally available, access to it is inadequate in many places. The north-eastern region of Karamoja suffers from chronic food insecurity and vulnerability to hunger, as well as poor access to services. A combination of chronic underdevelopment and recurrent drought means households there cannot meet basic nutritional requirements.
Current issues in Uganda
Uganda’s population is growing at a rate of 3.2 percent per year (Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2013). Average life expectancy is 58, the poverty rate is 19.5 percent, and per capita GDP is US$715.
Regional conflicts and refugee influx
The geopolitical location of Uganda makes the country vulnerable to conflicts in the Great Lakes region, and the number of refugees hosted by Uganda has been rising. Since fighting broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013 the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda rose from slightly over 22,000 to more than 200,000. In 2015, political instability elsewhere in the region led to fresh inflows, mainly of women and children, from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As of late January 2016, Uganda hosts over half a million refugees.
Multiple challenges in the Karamoja region
Karamoja, in the Northern Region, is Uganda’s poorest sub-region. It faces multiple chronic, interconnected challenges that include extreme poverty, chronic food insecurity, poor access to basic social services such as education and health, low literacy, poor sanitation and hygiene, environmental degradation, erratic rainfall and recurrent droughts.
Combined, these factors have undermined the capacity of households to meet their basic nutritional needs, and as a consequence the sub-region has higher-than-average rates of undernutrition. More than 100,000 people in Karamoja will require treatment for moderate acute malnutrition annually over the next few years.
According to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, 31.9 percent of children under age 5 in Karamoja are underweight, 45 percent are stunted, and wasting among children is at 7.1 percent.
By comparison, at national level 14 percent of children are underweight, stunting is at 33 percent, and wasting at 5 percent.
Until recently, Karamoja was also characterized by insecurity and gun violence. These particular challenges are now declining, and with increased investment by the Government and strong interest in the region from the Uganda Investment Authority there is a strong opportunity for development.
WFP is working with the Government, UN partners and NGOs, shifting away from emergency responses to longer-term investments that address the root causes of poverty and vulnerability.
Low incomes and high post-harvest food loss among smallholder farmers
Agriculture employs three quarters of the labour force and accounts for 25 percent of Uganda’s GDP. Smallholders – food and cash crops, horticulture, fishing and livestock – account for 96 percent of farmers and 75 percent of agricultural produce. But they underperform significantly as a result of poorly integrated markets, limited access to credit, uncertain land tenure and low levels of technology. Limited market information and the inability of primary producers to meet regional and international standards limit the sector’s contribution to exports.
Food waste is not a significant factor in Uganda, but post-harvest losses have been estimated to reach 40 percent in some sectors. Because post-harvest handling techniques and storage facilities are inadequate, surpluses tend to be sold immediately after harvest at the lowest point in the price cycle. The loss of potential income contributes to food insecurity and undernutrition among smallholder farming families, especially during lean seasons.
HIV and AIDS
7.3 percent of Uganda’s population is living with HIV. Between 2005 and 2013, strong HIV prevention and treatment initiatives saw a decrease of 19 percent in the number of AIDS-related deaths. However, in 2013 the number of new infections rose to 140,000 – globally, the third largest rise that year and the fourth highest rise among children. Access to treatment for adults living with HIV remains low at around 40 percent.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Uganda
WFP’s programmes in Uganda aim to assist about 1.2 million people in 2016. We are currently focusing on three main areas: refugees; the Karamoja region; and agriculture and market support, which includes reducing post-harvest food losses.
These programmes are implemented through two operations. One is a protracted relief and recovery operation (PRRO 200852), which has three components: refugee response and livelihoods; building resilience in Karamoja; and enhancing the Government’s emergency preparedness. The other is a Country Programme, 200894, which addresses underlying causes of hunger through three components: agriculture and market support; strengthened nutrition services; and school feeding in Karamoja.
WFP has traditionally focused on humanitarian requirements in Uganda. In future, much of the emphasis will be on building the country’s agricultural capacity. WFP is committed to making the shift from feeding people to helping people feed themselves. All WFP programmes directly respond to Sustainable Development Goal 2 - Zero Hunger - and are aligned with and support the priorities and policies of the Government of Uganda.
Support to refugees
Over 70 percent of refugees in Uganda are supported by WFP.
Under WFP’s protracted relief and recovery operation (PRRO) we provide high energy biscuits immediately on the refugees’ arrival, cooked meals at transit centres, and dry food rations or cash monthly to refugees who reside in settlements.
WFP supports about 35,000 refugees with cash, and this modality will be expanded in 2016. With cash in hand at a time when there is food in the markets, refugees are able to purchase their preferred choice of food, which enhances dignity. Cash transfers help reduce the re-sale of food assistance; enable refugees to increase their dietary diversity; and stimulate local markets.
WFP plans to pilot the use of biometric verification this year for its food and cash distributions in Uganda.
In addition to this general food assistance, WFP provides nutritive supplements for a child’s first 1,000 days. This is through a mother-and-child health and nutrition (MCHN) programme aimed at preventing stunting. The women receive food assistance conditional on monthly visits for antenatal and postnatal care; education in health, nutrition and gender-sensitive child feeding; and child immunization and growth monitoring. Additionally, WFP provides supplements to treat moderate acute malnutrition among pregnant women and new mothers, and children aged between 6 months and 5 years.
The Government allocates land to refugees for cultivation. As the refugees make use of it, and as they earn incomes from livelihood activities, we gradually scale back relief.
WFP has introduced a livelihoods support programme among long-staying refugees and members of the host communities to foster self-reliance in line with the NDP 2; it focuses on agriculture and market support activities including reduction of post-harvest food losses. Working in collaboration with the government and UNHCR, activities under this programme include: training in good agronomic practices and post-harvest food handling, provision of household storage units and agricultural tools, training in basic business and financial skills and construction of community grain stores under the P4P programme.
Refugees in Uganda are categorised as smallholder farmers, usually cultivating small plots of land – measuring about half a hectare – allocated them by the government. These plots have grown smaller, particularly in the West Nile settlements with the increased inflow of refugees from South Sudan. Moreover, the refugees lack skills and proper storage facilities in order to preserve their crops and avoid spoilage. They also lack efficient processing equipment for their crops (threshing/shelling), which could improve the quality and increase the resale price of their products.
Building resilience in Karamoja
Also through the PRRO, WFP implements a food/cash-for-assets programme, which is WFP’s main resilience-building and disaster risk reduction activity in Karamoja. It supports moderately food-insecure households by providing them with conditional food assistance during the lean season, and by enabling them to create assets for land reclamation, soil and water conservation, and water for agricultural production.
The food/cash-for-assets programme is a targeted, seasonal programme, which complements WFP’s support to Government-run education and health services. Integration of the two approaches is guided by a joint resilience strategy that outlines planning and implementation of resilience efforts in concert with the Government and other partners. This joint strategy combines programmes of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WFP.
Enhancing the Government’s emergency preparedness
In this PRRO component, WFP is using its expertise in emergency preparedness and disaster risk management to augment resilience-building in Karamoja and to develop national and sub-national capabilities.
WFP provides technical assistance, and policy and planning advice to support the Office of the Prime Minister’s efforts to decentralise disaster risk preparedness and response. Under the Karamoja resilience framework, WFP supports local governments in updating and implementing their emergency response plans. The Karamoja model will be the basis for adoption and training in other regions of Uganda from 2016 onwards.
Agriculture and market support
The first component of the Country Programme supports small-scale farmers in all regions of Uganda to reduce post-harvest losses and improve incomes, leveraging infrastructure and skills previously developed under the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative to enhance productivity, quality and market access. WFP’s support also covers refugees and members of host communities around the refugee settlements.
The programme focuses on capacity development for farmers and farmers’ organizations in agronomic practices, post-harvest handling and, storage, business development, leadership and financial management. Additionally, WFP provides labour-saving technologies to support women with agricultural and household duties.
WFP supports the Grain Council of Uganda in the development and enforcement of national quality standards, an integral element for improved markets.
A key aspect of WFP’s support is post-harvest loss eradication at household level, which involves sponsoring farmer trainings and promoting the use of improved post-harvest handling and storage technologies (as opposed to traditional ones). Aimed at addressing the household food loss bottleneck in the value chain, this project is part of a larger joint post-harvest loss reduction initiative between FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and WFP.
Strengthened nutrition services
Preventative nutrition significantly reduces the cost of managing malnutrition for any country. This part of the WFP’s development programme provides nutritional assistance in Karamoja, as well as Katakwi and Amuria districts in Eastern Uganda.
In Karamoja, WFP implements a conditional Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) programme, which operates through district health offices and assists pregnant and nursing women, and children aged 6 to 23 months.
Since 2009 WFP has been implementing a community-based supplementary feeding programme that treats malnourished children using our specialized nutritious food (SNF) product Super Cereal Plus. In 2016 we will integrate this initiative into community-based management of acute malnutrition, to complement treatment of severe acute malnutrition by UNICEF and health outreach work done by other partners.
In 2015, in collaboration with the Government, UNICEF and USAID-SPRING, WFP rolled out a home food fortification programme in Katakwi and Amuria districts using another SNF product, micronutrient powders (MNPs). Mothers or caregivers of children aged 6 to 23 months receive cartons of MNPs, each sachet containing 15 vitamins and minerals.
They sprinkle these over the children’s food at home. The programme is a key component of the Government’s infant and young child feeding framework aimed at improving complimentary feeding among young children, and is implemented within existing local government health delivery structures. In 2016 WFP plans to reach over 42,000 children.
Home-grown school feeding in Karamoja
For decades, WFP school meals have encouraged children in Karamoja to enrol, stay in school and complete their education. WFP provides meals at 284 schools in the sub-region, reaching all school-going children with a midday meal. Across Karamoja education status is significantly associated with all indicators of malnutrition. By addressing short-term hunger, school feeding enhances learning. It is an investment in the children’s future and their ability, long-term, to overcome hunger and poor nutrition.
With WFP’s support, in 2015 the Government launched a programme called Karamoja Feeds Karamoja. Under this scheme, the Government contributes locally-grown cereals to WFP’s school meals basket, with WFP supporting handling, storage, warehousing and delivery to all schools in Karamoja. This collaboration is part of WFP’s efforts in Uganda to support local solutions for school feeding. We will eventually hand over the programme to the Government.
As well as being a recipient of WFP programming, Uganda plays an important role in our regional supply chain. WFP buys food in Uganda to reduce delivery lead times for programmes and operations both in-country and in the region. This arrangement is mutually beneficial because it supports local markets, particularly small-scale farmers.
In 2015, WFP purchased over 55,600 metric tons of food worth USD 20 million, of which small-scale farmer groups supplied over 14 percent – 4 percent above our annual target. The local food purchases are part of an overall supply chain strategy in which WFP’s Country Office focuses on integrating internal capabilities, enabling the wider humanitarian community, and building national capacities. In relation to the latter, we are currently assisting the Government in establishing a humanitarian supply chain. This is taking place within the emergency preparedness and disaster risk management component of the PRRO.
Uganda’s robust infrastructure and its strategic position have allowed WFP to substantially expand logistics operations here and in the region. WFP has two regional warehouses in Uganda (total capacity: 36,000 metric tons), 13 extended delivery points (total capacity: 16,000 metric tons), and 63 strategic fleet trucks, and we work with 43 local commercial transporting firms.
The Uganda Country Office is also helping move food via Entebbe Airport into South Sudan through airdrops. Since December 2015, WFP has airdropped approximately 900 metric tons of cereals to isolated villages in South Sudan that cannot be reached by any other means.
World Food Programme partners in Uganda
WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in Uganda:
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
- Office of the Prime Minister, Uganda – Special Programmes: Karamoja
- Ugandan Ministry of Health
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- The University of British Columbia, Canada
- The University of Makerere in Uganda
- US Centers for Disease Control
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