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Uganda
Uganda has rich, fertile soil and ample rainfall, and 82 percent of Uganda’s population work in agriculture. Despite these factors, which should lead to a surplus of food, Uganda still struggles with widespread hunger. This small country has a fast-growing population that is expected to reach 100 million by 2050. International nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are working hard to make sure Uganda will be able to feed its people. It is important to be informed in order to help, so here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Uganda.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Uganda

  1. Uganda’s poverty rate declined from 31 percent in 2006 to 19.7 percent in 2013. However, massive population growth in northern and eastern regions was significant; therefore, the actual number of people living in poverty did not decrease much at all.
  2. Approximately 84 percent of Ugandans live in rural communities and rely on agriculture for food and their livelihoods. This can make families vulnerable to weather cycles and natural disasters that can affect crop yields. Even if families can produce surplus food, they often do not have the means to reliably store their surplus.
  3. Food storage facilities are so inadequate that approximately 30 percent of food stored is lost. Facilities do not adequately protect food stores from pests, moisture or mold. Lack of reliable storage contributes to overall food insecurity and hunger in Uganda, especially during seasons with light rainfall.
  4. Approximately 21 percent of Ugandans do not have access to clean water, which impedes people’s ability to stay hydrated, avoid disease and cook meals. The Hunger Project has been working in Uganda to increase the number of facilities where people can access clean water and safely dispose of waste.
  5. Uganda has hosted more refugees than any other African country with 1.3 million refugees in 2017, primarily from South Sudan and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. The additional mouths to feed have severely strained Uganda’s food resources, and both malnutrition and anemia run rampant in refugee settlements.
  6. The most common foods in Uganda are matoke and posho, which are both very poor in vitamins. The lack of nutritious foods and balanced diets has led to high rates of malnutrition and related diseases such as vitamin deficiencies, stunting and anemia. This deficiency actually ends up costing the state a great deal of money.
  7. Malnutrition costs Uganda $899 million per year, in other words, 5.6 percent of its national income. Poor nutrition affects work productivity the most, reducing the physical capacities of the laborers. This ended up costing Uganda $317 million in 2009. Malnutrition-related health treatments have further cost Uganda $254 million.
  8. For children, malnutrition is even more dangerous. Between 2004 to 2009, around 110,220 children died of malnutrition. A large part of the problem is that 82 percent of cases of child malnutrition in Uganda go untreated, accounting for 15 percent of child mortality cases in the country.
  9. Approximately 29 percent of children under the age of five are stunted, meaning they are too short for their ages. Stunting is a result of undernourishment and malnutrition and can lead to a number of other physical and mental health problems. More than half of the adult population in Uganda was stunted during childhood.
  10. Undernourished children are more likely to drop out of school or repeat academic years. An estimated 133,000 Ugandan children per year have to repeat grades. Uganda’s government released a report in 2013 that said, “When the child is undernourished, that child’s brain is less likely to develop at healthy rates, and that child is more likely to have cognitive delays.” Children in poverty have even less of a chance of getting out of poverty if they cannot get an education.

Addressing the Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Uganda

A number of NGOs are working to reduce hunger in Uganda, such as Farm Africa (FA) and The World Food Programme (WFP). Both FA and WFP target Ugandan farmers to help increase their crops and process surpluses while improving the sustainability of the land. WFP also works to improve crisis responses by providing food and cash aid, helps to build resilience by providing important skills training and works with the government to provide nutritious meals to school children.

Two other organizations, The Hunger Project (THP) and Action Against Hunger (AAH), have already reached hundreds of thousands of people in Uganda. THP works in 494 villages to decrease poverty. They have helped 287,807 people access basic services by building sustainable and self-reliant communities around 11 epicenters.

AAH works in refugee centers and has helped 597,390 people in 2017 alone, focusing on nutrition, water, sanitation, livelihoods and food security. The health centers provided in Uganda work with families to screen for malnutrition and provide information on nutrition to prevent cases of under-nourished children.

Uganda has a long road ahead in its efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. By being aware of the underlying causes, NGOs and governments can work together to implement solutions. Providing sustainable farming practices, clean water and sanitation and access to medical treatment are key steps in alleviating hunger in Uganda

 

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health Care in Uganda
In many countries around the globe, healthcare professionals have begun to fully realize the need for comprehensive mental health care along with physical care. However, in many developing countries, where access to basic needs such as clean water and vaccines can be hard to come by, mental health care is often viewed as an unnecessary addition to the already costly and (rare) healthcare systems that may be in place.

Mental Health in Uganda

Uganda is the last of the six African countries with the highest number of mental health cases reported. Of the 38 million people in Uganda, almost 5 percent experience clinical depression and almost 3 percent deal with anxiety disorders. Now, the government has taken a new look at options to address mental health care in Uganda.

The Ministry of Health has begun The Health Services Strategic Plan (HSSP), a comprehensive plan to overcome the challenges many developing countries face in providing access to good physical and mental health care. There are some crucial barriers that Uganda, and many other countries, must overcome in order to fully assist their citizens in receiving proper mental health care.

  • Distance: One-third of Uganda’s population lives over 5 kilometers from the nearest health facility, and it is not guaranteed that the nearest facility will have patients’ pharmaceutical requirements or even be equipped to treat the patient’s medical needs.
  • Communication: In the healthcare field, direct and effective communication is key to both the success of the program and the well-being of patients. In Uganda, 43 different languages and dialects are spoken, making communication for all involved—doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and patients—difficult when it comes to discussing diagnosis, treatment, medications and discharge information.
  • Funding: In developing countries, the cost is often a large factor in the country’s ability to provide healthcare to their people. Only 9.8 percent of Uganda’s GDP is spent on healthcare, and less than 1 percent of these funding is directed towards mental health care.
  • Stigmas about mental health: Mental illness has long been stigmatized by the general public around the world. The concept that people suffering from mental illness have done something to deserve or create their struggles can have a powerful effect on one’s willingness to seek the necessary treatments.

Treating Trauma for Women

Poverty and mental illness often augment each other in a negative cycle. In Uganda, and in many other countries where poverty is prevalent, women and girls have a greater risk of mental illness. In Uganda, 80 percent of women who have received care for trauma-related issues have reported experiencing sexual assault. The negative consequences to one’s mental health associated with such a traumatic incident often keep people at low levels economically, socially and mentally.

The cycle of abuse towards women along with expectations of marriage and childbearing in at a young age and the minimal educational opportunities available perpetuate the ongoing cycle of poverty as a whole. In 2012, The Uganda Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) became partners in solving the growing issue of insufficient access to treatment options for mental health care in Uganda, specifically for children, women and those living in poverty.

Focus on Children and Adolescents

One component of Uganda’s new work on mental health care is Child and Adolescent Mental Health training, or CAMH. By providing access to mental health care for children and adolescents, Uganda can promote well-being from a young age, thereby de-stigmatizing the act of seeking and receiving care and support as needed. Therefore, training more professional is integral to the success of the new mental health policies.

In order to complete this mission, the training will tackle the issues preventing access to mental health care for all in Uganda through 5 main objectives: increasing knowledge surrounding mental health care, improving availability of mental, neurological and substance abuse care, increasing research, monitoring and evaluation of mental health concerns, contributions to the development of legislation, and increasing collaboration in providing mental health care to children and adolescents.

Treating Depression With HIV/AIDS

In 2016, a program was initiated in Uganda, developed Dr. Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu, that focused on mental health care in relation to HIV/AIDs. Nearly one-third of HIV/AIDs patients experience depression. While the number of facilities and healthcare professionals trained to deal with HIV/AIDs has increased, access to mental health care has remained minimal.

The new program has introduced ‘group support psychotherapy,’ targeting the management of depressive symptoms occurring in those with HIV/AIDS. It is believed that 70 percent of patients will recover substantially from depression through the group therapy, thereby positively influencing self-esteem, feelings of social support, and general functioning levels. By alleviating patient’s depression through mental health care in tandem with physical care needed, it is predicted that 20 percent of patients will experience less poverty due to higher productivity rates.

The country of Uganda began drafting legislation targeted at towards these and more mental health issues in its new Mental Health Policy, which will review and revise the 1964 Mental Health Act. The aim is to provide structure and safety for those struggling with emotional, neurological or substance abuse problems as well as create preventative measures involving communities and regional, rather than national, healthcare centers and professionals.  

Through Uganda’s new efforts and policies, there is now hope that those suffering from mental health issues in the country will be able to seek the help they need. By working to provide the training, facilities and education against stigmas necessary to enact real change in the community, Uganda will be able to alleviate some of the mental health issues being faced, which will, in turn, help alleviate poverty.

– Anna Lally

Photo: Flickr

7 Facts About Ugandan Child Soldiers
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began in 1987 in Uganda to rebel against President Yoweri Museveni. Children constitute most of the army. The LRA forces child soldiers in Uganda to commit acts of violence on other minors within the LRA ranks as well as brutalities on their own siblings.

LRA and Child Soldiers in Uganda

Between 1988 and 2004, the LRA abducted 30,000 Ugandan children.

Joseph Kony heads the LRA. He grew up in the northern Ugandan village, Odek. His relative, Alice Auma Lakwena, began a rebel group called The Holy Spirit Movement in 1986 when Museveni seized power. In 1987, Kony declared himself a prophet, changed the name of the group to the LRA and began proclaiming rule based on the Ten Commandments.

In October 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began attempting to arrest Kony. A peace agreement was finalized in April 2008, but the child soldiers in Uganda and neighboring countries remained an issue.

Since 2008, Kony and his forces have been shifting their presence to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic. The LRA Crisis Tracker, a website that reports LRA attacks and notifies email subscribers, lists 27 verified child abductions in these countries in 2018 alone.

Issues with the LRA

The LRA has displaced more than two million people since 1986 thereby increasing poverty in Uganda, especially in the north. However, the relation between the LRA and poverty is not mutually exclusive. The LRA and its brutal use of child soldiers in Uganda is a result of the harsh poverty that Kony and many others in the LRA ranks have experienced. Note the following:

  1. A huge income inequality, rooted in colonialism, exists between northern and southern Uganda’s north and south.
  2. British colonists created a militant north.
  3. The Acholi people have been systematically oppressed.

When the British colonized Uganda in 1860, a centralized government did not exist. They created agricultural and commercial centers in southern Uganda.

This left the north to provide labor. The British found higher success rates in northern Uganda for army recruitment because it provided northerners an opportunity to improve their livelihoods. These divisions continued after Uganda gained independence in 1962.

Acholi

Kony came from the impoverished north and is Acholi, an ethnolinguistic group. Idi Amin Dada, Former Ugandan President from 1971 to 1979, persecuted and executed the Acholi due to their military ties and alignment with Apollo Milton Obote, who was in office as the Prime Minister from 1962 to 1966 and as the President from 1966 to 1971 and then again from 1980 to 1985.

The British created a system where many Acholi people turned to the army to escape extreme poverty and then they were persecuted for it. Poverty and persecution influenced Kony’s disillusionment with the government and his desire to rebel and create child soldiers in Uganda.

However, the LRA’s actions have not combated the root issues of poverty and oppression. The cycle of poverty in Uganda propagates because of Kony and the LRA’s use of Ugandan child soldiers in the following ways:

  1. One of the biggest populations of displaced people now exists in northern and eastern Uganda. Most LRA raids take place at night, so when Kony’s presence was focused in Uganda, mothers and children trying to avoid becoming Ugandan soldiers fled their villages to bigger towns and secure government camps. More than 80 percent of the Acholi people were displaced.
  2. Malnutrition exists within the LRA ranks as well and many Ugandans focused on fleeing for their lives over planting food. This created severe food shortages, particularly in 2004.
  3. A lack of health workers exists because so many of them had to escape the LRA.
  4. Kony and other men in the LRA took many female captives as “wives” and forced them to have more children in order to provide more resources.

Moving Forward in Uganda

Now that most of LRA’s presence is focused elsewhere, Uganda is working to solve its problems. In 2006, 31.1 percent of Ugandans were under the national poverty line, according to The World Bank’s 2016 Uganda Poverty Assessment. In 2013, it went down to 19.7 percent. Northern and eastern Uganda still suffer devastating consequences from Kony’s reign of terror, and the same study reveals that poverty has increased in those regions from 68 percent to 84 percent in those seven years.

In June 2009, the LRA had abducted 491 civilians and caused 484 civilian fatalities in Uganda. While peace is coming to Uganda and its children, the LRA still violently demonstrates its power in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it abducted 124 civilians in 2018.

In June 2018, there have been no reported fatalities or abductions, meaning there are no new child soldiers in Uganda this year. The growing peace in Uganda provides hope that the country’s poverty rate might reduce and that the LRA would not reign indefinitely.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents UgandaMany people believe Uganda to be a nation in tatters because of how the media misrepresents Uganda. This is most likely because Uganda has very little known about it aside from when things are going or have gone wrong for the nation. The truth is simple: Uganda, just like any other place in the world has had its share of problems. It’s had corruption, misfortune and hostility.

One of Uganda’s most pivotal alliances is with the United States. Uganda and the U.S. established diplomatic relations in 1962 after Uganda gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

In January 2018, the Ugandan government and agencies were condemned for the mistreatment of incoming refugees. Corruption from multiple corners of government was found and squashed by U.N. aid agencies.

Some of the people meant to help refugees find new homes made up “ghost” refugees to push up numbers for extra funding. There was also notable evidence of extortion of refugees from anything to goods and what little money they had to sexual acts.

Amb Pacifici has praised Uganda and its Prime Minister for continued efforts and communication during challenging times in regard to regional issues. Most recently, in Kampala, the Ministry of Education announced that it would launch a framework into better sexuality education for students. This furthers the knowledge of Uganda’s hopeful youth.

The Ministry acknowledges the importance of the young minds and hopes that this will help guide the country to a more enriched development from the ground up. The guidelines will also allow for the public schools to follow along with the private school teachings when teaching sexuality education. None of this is mentioned in U.S. media leading to further evidence of how the media misrepresents Uganda.

The United States focuses on the problems of Uganda in media and less on how Uganda is turning itself around. One article, in particular, stood out but there was very little coverage overall on Uganda in the U.S. media when searched. Miniscule coverage of the positives going on in Uganda and an emphasis on continued problems of the region is yet another example of how the media misrepresents Uganda.

A recent CNN article gave multiple examples such as “modern colonization” and “secret deals,” fueling continued greed and corruption in Africa which robs the people of culture.

There are always bound to be conflicts in other countries but conflicts only ever make up part of a country’s story of progression. The media continues to misrepresent the true potential of Uganda, adding confusion to conflict.

Uganda shouldn’t be written off or labeled as a lost cause but rather seen for its truth, for the strength of its people and their rich culture. No place or thing can be ignored if true progress is to take place.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Uganda
Although Uganda is a Sub-Saharan African country with one of the highest rates of poverty reduction, the country remains among the poorest in the world. According to a 2016 poverty assessment, poverty in Uganda reduced significantly between 2006 and 2013. The number of Ugandans living below the poverty line declined from 31.1 percent in 2006 to 19.7 percent in 2013.

The issue now is the sustainability of this poverty reduction, as Uganda is lacking important non-monetary resources. These include sufficient sanitation, access to electricity, health and well-being, education and nutrition. Discussed below are the causes of poverty in Uganda and their implications.

 

4 Leading Causes of Poverty in Uganda

 

  1. Safety net programs are of limited availability in Uganda, which increases the vulnerability of households to fall back into poverty. In 2013, it was reported that only one percent of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was spent on social security. This percentage is much lower than the 2.8 percent average for Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to this lack of social security, 35 percent of Ugandans rely on their life savings and 25 percent rely on their family. This makes falling back into poverty highly likely for a majority of people.
  2. Diseases are another cause of poverty in Uganda. Infant and child mortality rates remain high, with 131 deaths per 1,000 births. Families in Uganda are often large. With the lack of finances and resources, larger families are highly likely to fall below the poverty line. Poor health also reduces a family’s work productivity, causing poverty to be passed down through generations.
  3. Agriculture contributed to 79 percent of poverty reduction in Uganda between 2006 and 2013, but there is still much room for improvement. Though a large portion of the population earns its livelihood through agriculture, there is still an excess in labor opportunities. Further improvement in productivity of agriculture is necessary to provide more work and bring people out of poverty.
  4. Due to a high dependency on work in agriculture and the informal sector, there is a lack of skilled labor among Ugandans. Without skilled labor, it is challenging for Uganda to obtain important non-monetary resources and narrows subsistence options. This also causes a deficiency in forward mobility, which preserves poverty.

The persistence of poverty in Uganda, despite significant poverty reduction, conveys the need for further governmental assistance and global contribution. To sustain poverty reduction for developing nations, more attention to foreign aid policy is needed.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Ureport-gathers-information-on-Uganda's-poor
Aid organizations, such as UNICEF and others, know the role technology has in poverty alleviation, and the mobile app, Ureport, is helping to link them to developing Ugandan communities. Ureport obtains data and statistics on Uganda to determine current needs and public opinion on aid issues. With the help of Ureport information, development groups have been working to respond more effectively to crises within developing countries by identifying specific regions that must be met with aid.

Using SMS notifications, Ureport asks its members to respond to poll questions so that UNICEF may be informed of communities with specific needs to be addressed. With almost 300,000 users, Ureport is able to send critical notifications to its aid partners on everyday situations of poverty and hunger. Its most recent poll question asked whether those who use wells, boreholes or community taps were able to access water on a given day. The results showed that just over half were able to access water while more than a third could not. The remainder of participants did not answer. Upon answering questions, users are also asked to name their respective communities, so that Ureport knows where to aid efforts must be targeted.

Ureport also poses questions about areas of conflict, starvation, disaster and which group communities expect to respond to these crises. From the data gathered, aid groups are not only able to recognize specific areas to assist, but they can also judge the general sentiment in Uganda towards topics such as expectations for aid.

One of Ureport’s successes involved its gathering of information on the 2013 spread of Banana Bacterial Wilt, or BBW, throughout Uganda. As a country that relies heavily on its banana crop, Uganda faced a major threat to the livelihoods of its people and farmers. BBW has the potential to cause complete crop loss for farmers, and in the past, certain farms have shown staggering crop failure of 90 percent. Ureport’s initial poll asked users whether they knew any farmers whose crops had been infected with BBW, then all users were sent quick facts on the state of the infection, and additional information on how to stop the spread of BBW was provided to those who requested it.

Ureport also receives information and breaks it down into easily understood visuals, such as a color-coded map featured on their website showing which areas of Uganda are threatened by various crises. On the map, the two largest issues are currently education, and health and nutrition. The site and the app work to promote awareness of the most severe situations throughout Uganda while also helping to ‘shorten’ the distance between us and poverty-stricken people who may sometimes live in more remote areas of the world.

Joining Ureport is about as easy as answering one of their survey questions. All users need to do is text “JOIN” to 8500 and they will then become a “U-reporter” for free. Not only are users helping to empower their community by being more vocal advocates for aid, but they are also providing valuable data on everyday situations in their region so that they may be more effectively addressed.

– Amy Russo

Sources: The World Bank, Ureport, The World Bank,
Photo: Uganda, East Africa

poverty in uganda
Poverty in Uganda remains a pressing issue. About 67 percent of Ugandans are either poor or highly vulnerable to poverty according to the 2012 expenditure review for Uganda by the Directorate of Social Protection in the gender ministry.

 

Top Facts on Poverty in Uganda

 

Based on an analysis of the 1989-90 Household Budget Survey, the poverty assessment for Uganda was divided along two lines. The first category of poverty was defined by a level that represented the spending needed for a daily consumption of 2,200 calories in addition to some non-food spending. Ugandans falling below this line were categorized as “poor.” The second level of poverty was set at a line that represented the bare minimum for adequate food intake. Those who fell below even that line were labeled the “poorest.” According to these definitions, 55 percent of Ugandans are considered poor. The rest of that 67 percent of at-risk or poor Ugandans fall somewhere in the core “poorest” category.

Ninety-two percent of the poor live in rural areas even though 89 percent of the population is actually classified as rural. Not only is poverty more widespread in rural areas, it is also more severe. Thus, poverty-related indicators – including household size, dependency ratio and illiteracy – are higher for rural Uganda.

Because of poverty in Uganda, life expectancy for men and women is one of the lowest in the world at an average of 59 years. AIDS has become a key contributor to death and illness amongst young children, consistently driving the infant and child mortality rate higher. Malaria has been found to be the primary killer among adults admitted to hospitals. Additionally, diarrhea, pneumonia and anemia are almost as prevalent as AIDS as reported causes of death. With a per-capita income of under $170, Uganda is regarded as one of the most impoverished countries in the world. These grim facts are a testament of the destruction brought about by the political turmoil and economic decline characteristics of over ten years of despotic leadership.

Uganda’s small revenue has made it extremely difficult to directly target its impoverished human capital. Nevertheless, social protection mechanisms are central to uplifting the poor and allowing them to achieve full productivity potential. Recognizing this, the government has attempted to re-prioritize its expenditures in favor of the social sectors and rural infrastructure. Some newer areas of focus include government development of family planning programs and promotion of literacy and education. Yet, development of social indicators is still lagging, particularly for rural women who work longer hours than men.

Despite the seemingly enormous magnitude of poverty in Uganda, some economic progress has occurred in recent years. For example, the government has implemented a far-reaching economic reform agenda that has transformed Uganda into one of the most liberal economies of Sub-Saharan Africa. This entails the liberalization of the exchange and trade regime, the endorsement of a new investment code and the liberalization of the agricultural market. With these factors in play, the government is readying the way for future economic growth. In fact, aggregate real per capital GDP actually grew substantially between 1987 and 1991 whereas previously it had been in steady decline.

It is true that the economic situation in Uganda  still seems bleak and poverty remains rampant. Yet, as indicated by past examples, economic reform coupled with increased focus on social affairs can bring increased hope for the poor of Uganda.

– Grace Zhao

Source: The World BankNew VisionUNICEF
Photo: OB