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What are the current issues in Uganda

Uganda has significantly reduced its levels of hunger and poverty over the last two decades. However, WFP's support remains important in addressing humanitarian and development challenges, mostly in the Karamoja region and among refugees. Meanwhile, in the areas of the country that produce food surpluses, WFP is playing a key role in providing agriculture and market support for smallholder farmers.

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). About 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 3.03 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 activities

WFP’s programmes in Uganda aim to assist nearly a million people in 2015 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.

  • Emergency humanitarian support

WFP is aiming to reach an estimated 580,000 people in 2015 who cannot meet their basic food and nutrition security needs. Key activities under this programme include:

  • targeted food distributions for vulnerable households in Karamoja,
  • general food or cash distributions among 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.
  • Improving food security in the longer term

The country programme targets two categories of beneficiaries. The first are those 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 and 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, and training in post-harvest management, group dynamics and farming as a business.

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).

  • Improving nutrition

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.

  • Improving Emergency Preparedness

Also since 2014, WFP has been actively supporting emergency preparedness and response programmes of the government, UN and other humanitarian actors. Working closely with the government’s department of disaster preparedness and management, WFP is assisting in the areas of risk assessment, development of national and regional preparedness plans and early warning systems, as well as response to complex emergencies. WFP is assisting the government to establish a system to manage the delivery and warehousing of food and other supplies during natural disasters or emergencies to the affected regions and people.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Uganda

WFP has been active in Uganda since 1963 with operations generally focused on how best to use food for humanitarian and development support. In 2008, however, WFP Uganda adopted a new strategy in line with the organization’s revised and more targeted approach to addressing hunger.

WFP is committed to helping the Government of Uganda and communities find lasting solutions to hunger, applying whatever tool is most effective in a particular situation – whether it be food assistance, livelihood support, education and sensitization, or support for local production and markets...or something else.

This also means working even more closely with partners, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN children's agency UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

WFP Uganda’s new Country Strategy has three focus areas:

  • Emergency humanitarian action

When a crisis occurs, WFP assists the Government in addressing life-threatening hunger concerns. Action may be needed to address inadequate food consumption (in terms of quality or quantity) as well as other factors such as diseases that prevent the body absorbing nutrients. WFP Uganda is using a range of tools (including food assistance) and partnerships to address these critical hunger-related needs.

  • Food and nutrition security

In situations where people are able to meet their basic or immediate food needs but remain vulnerable, WFP enables households to address their particular challenges, whether related to chronic hunger and/or micronutrient deficiencies. In Karamoja, this involves food-based activities – including school meals and a mother and child health and nutrition programme – since adequate food is unavailable in markets. In the south-west and other parts of the country, however, the emphasis is on sensitization rather than the direct delivery of food.

With such priorities in mind, WFP is shifting its focus from food assistance towards support for livelihoods, crop production and greater self-sufficiency. Such support is being provided via the Karamoja Productive Assets Programme and the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund II.

  • Agriculture and market support

WFP plays a leading role in supporting local agriculture and markets through its local purchases - over USD $50 million a year - and its Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme which targets small-holder households and seeks to strengthen their food security. WFP links smallholders to quality markets so they can get the greatest possible benefit from what they produce. At the same time, WFP is working with FAO and other partners to enhance essential market infrastructure and dramatically reduce post-harvest losses.

This year, WFP aims to reach some 266,000 people through direct food assistance, and many more through its development programmes designed to strengthen agricultural livelihoods and enhance food and nutrition security. The 266,000 beneficiaries will include malnourished children, refugees and extremely vulnerable households in Karamoja.

Featured Uganda publications

  • Uganda: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 362 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Uganda? Visit the Uganda publications archive.