Current Ugandan President, Yoweri Musevini, announced a new plan to reduce the number of people suffering from AIDS.

On June 6, 2017 in Kampa, Uganda, Musevini introduced the President Fast-Track Initiative on Ending AIDS as a public health threat in Uganda by 2030.

The President Fast-Track initiative has been dubbed “Kisanja hakno mchezo” (no playing games) highlighting the focus and devotion that President Musevini possesses for the program. It includes a five point plan for focused action against the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country.

President Musevini’s five point plan for the President Fast-Track Initiative:

  1. Accelerate steps to remove the propensity of new HIV infections (particularly among girls and young women and their partners.)
  2.  Eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
  3. Accelerate “Test and Treat” programs, bringing them up to 90-90-90 targets (obtaining a 90 percent for treatment, care and support by 2020).
  4.  Guarantee financial sustainability for HIV and AIDS programs.
  5.  Reinforce institutional effectiveness for a multi-sectoral response.

President Musevini took personal interest in the program and will receive reports in order to improve plans as they unfold. The Uganda AIDS Commission, along with leadership from President Musevini, will coordinate the initiative. UNAIDS, a leading UN agency in coordinating the HIV response, will have key leadership in the initiative.

Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, was in attendance during the announcement of the President Fast-Track Initiative: “For the millions of people who are not here today, they will be happy that their President is back in the driving seat of the HIV response, launching the first President Fast-Track Initiative. Once again, Uganda is leading Africa and the world to demonstrate that we can end the AIDS epidemic,” Sidibe said. “Under his leadership, Uganda is moving from breaking the conspiracy of silence to breaking the conspiracy of complacency.”

An estimated 1.5 million people suffered from HIV and 28,000 died from HIV and AIDS related illnesses in 2015. An estimated 40 percent of adults are still not on treatment due to mitigating factors, including access to medication, stigma and discrimination, an issue the President Fast-Track Initiative hopes to take care of.

Steps have already been put in place to reduce the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda. According to UNAIDS reports, infections dropped to 83,000 in 2015, far lower than the 2009 estimated 130,000 people per year.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

When women are given education, financial independence and power in government, great things happen. Unfortunately, many parts of the world are still relatively oppressive, making it harder for women to access these opportunities.

USAID is doing something to change that. As a part of its Resiliency through Wealth, Agriculture, and Nutrition program (RWANU), it launched the Ugandan Goat Initiative , which introduced a goat breed called the Galla, also known as “milk queen,” from Kenya in the hopes of empowering women.

As part of the initiative, women in Karamoja, Uganda are given goats and attend a training course on how to raise and care for them. The goats began to thrive under the women’s care, and little by little the strict gender roles in Karamoja have begun to unravel.

A survey of the community revealed that 65 percent now recognize the livestock group members as leaders in the community, and 61 percent have also reported improved marriages because of the goats.

“Now, I have something that I can call my own,” Joyce Owalinga, the chairwoman of her livestock group, noted. “As chairperson of my group, I can also now speak with confidence. The other women and community members respect and listen to me, and my husband now respects me.”

Not only is the Ugandan Goat Initiative changing attitudes and beliefs, it is also reducing hunger in the village. Many women are responsible for feeding their families but have lacked the purchasing power. Now, the goats bring milk which can feed families and be sold at the market for other needed goods. Each goat can feed roughly 68 people. RWANU also has programs for sustainable water management and forest restoration, aimed at improving access to food and reducing malnutrition in pregnant and lactating women and children under five.

These goats take communities one step closer to empowered women and gender equity. That news is nothing but good.

Kelsey Alexis Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Uganda is a country in Africa that has undergone tremendous growth in its economic sector as a result of a large amount of the population moving to urban centers in the country. However, despite this growth, the country is struggling to provide clean water to its citizens.

Although it is common for issues regarding water quality to be limited to rural areas, the country as a whole is lacking in basic necessities.

In fact, estimates that 21 percent of Ugandans lack access to safe water, and nearly 87 percent do not have sufficient sanitation facilities. A possible reason for this could be the high population growth in the country, which has stressed the water quality making it abysmal.

In Kampala City, researchers have found the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the springs, which provide a major source of water for the population. The contamination could be due to poor waste management and badly-designed pit latrines. In addition to the contaminated spring water used for domestic purposes, the drinking water quality in Uganda may be in trouble due to the presence of nitrates.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, children between the ages of 12 to 14 who have come into contact with nitrate-contaminated water are reported to exhibit delayed reactions to light and sound stimuli. Clearly, the state of water in Uganda is far below adequate and is wreaking havoc on the population.

Pollution and water contamination kill millions every year and the stress put on the economic sectors by urbanization and population growth has only increased the trouble in Uganda.

In order to improve the water quality in Uganda, the country must work with organizations to provide safe water and sanitation to its citizens. For those who live in rural areas, health and hygiene education is going to be key in identifying unsafe water for domestic use and consumption.

Once the country puts these programs in place, it can focus on developing a better system to deal with its rapid economic and population growth so as to ensure everyone has access to clean water.

Jacqueline Artz

Photo: Flickr

Since 1987, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony have caused conflict throughout Central Africa. Differing from typical anti-government insurgencies, the LRA has targeted citizens rather than the military. Ending LRA violence has been a goal of the Ugandan government since the 1990s, but attempts were initially unsuccessful.

In 2010, the U.S. became actively involved in ending LRA violence after grassroots advocacy movements brought the issue to the attention of Congress. In October 2011, President Obama deployed 100 U.S. Army Special Forces members to serve as advisory personnel and to aid the African Union Task Force, comprised of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Congress has four objectives for ending LRA violence in Central Africa:

  1. Protect of Central Africans from LRA attacks

    There has been a 92 percent reduction in LRA-related killings since 2012, partly due to the establishment of communication networks across the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These networks have allowed for the establishment of the LRA Crisis Tracker project, which provides timely updates on LRA attacks and abductions. The communication networks have also allowed for the establishment of an Early Warning Radio Network, which ensures that communities are warned if LRA troops are in a nearby area. This network has ensured that no large-scale massacres, such as the Christmas Massacre in 2008 that left over 600 dead, could occur in the last five years.

  2. Apprehend Joseph Kony and his senior LRA commanders

    Joseph Kony is believed to be hiding in Kafa Kingi in southern Darfur, and the Ugandan military has reported capturing or killing several senior LRA commanders between 2011 and 2014. In 2014, LRA commander Dominic Ongwen was arrested and placed on trial at the International Criminal Court. Court proceedings began last December.

  3. Encourage defection and reintegration among LRA soldiers

    Between 2010 and 2013, the number of LRA combatants dropped from approximately 400 to 250; in 2014, 80 percent of Ugandan male soldiers who left or defected from the LRA did so voluntarily. An innovative way in which the African Union Task force and the U.S. government have promoted defections is through the “Come Home” program. By collecting information on known remaining militants from their communities, the U.S. military has been able to record personal messages for soldiers, which they broadcast through loudspeakers from helicopters and personalized leaflet drops. These personalized messages, along with other messages telling soldiers they will be welcomed back, have had a tremendous impact. In the last six months alone, at least 44 soldiers have defected after receiving personalized messages asking them to return home.

  4. Provide humanitarian aid to communities affected by LRA violence

    USAID focuses on providing resources that assist in early recovery following attacks, including healthcare services and food security resources for displaced persons. They have formed 94 community protection committees in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the two countries currently most affected by LRA violence. International NGOs have focused their efforts on community-based programs that reintegrate former soldiers into communities and aid with the effects of post-traumatic stress and experienced trauma.

The innovative strategies of the U.S. and the African Union Task Force have had a positive impact, weakening the grip of the movement in the region and improving the lives of those in Central Africa. While Joseph Kony is still at large, with the continued support of aid groups and the U.S. government, ending LRA violence in Central Africa and restoring safe communities is closer to being achieved.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

At least 1.3 million Ugandans face hunger following drought conditions and subsequent poor crop yields, according to a 2016 email statement from Christopher Kibazanga, Ugandan Minister of State for Agriculture. Among the harder hit were the citizens of the northeastern Karamoja region, with 65 percent of people having access to only half a meal or less per day.

Multiple nonprofits, however, have focused on eliminating Uganda food insecurity for decades and are still seeking long-term solutions to this crisis. Here are three nonprofit initiatives that are contributing to the fight against hunger in Uganda.

Hunger Project

Hunger Project has been working in Uganda since 1999, and utilizes an aid distribution method they refer to as an “epicenter strategy.” This method involves establishing community-built and community-facilitated mobilization centers that bring together multiple villages to share resources and address issues that affect all communities involved.

Over an eight-year timeframe, an epicenter addresses hunger and poverty while allowing communities to become sustainable and self-reliant, with the goal of being able to fund programs and activities without investor involvement.

Hunger Project has established 11 epicenters that serve 494 villages in total, reaching 287,807 people in all.

The World Food Programme

World Food Programme (WFP) is working with the Ugandan government, partners in the United Nations and nongovernment organizations to turn emergency responses to food insecurity into longer-term investments that seek to solve the root of the problems.

WFP supports approximately 70 percent of refugees in Uganda through monthly rations, cooked meals at transit centers and nutrition support for pregnant and nursing women and children aged between six months and five years.

This nonprofit program also organizes the distribution of 284 school meals to students in Karamoja. The meals include locally produced cereals, in hopes of facilitating local commerce.

Feed the Children

Since 2012, Feed the Children has provided health education to communities in northern Uganda. These services include school health programs that provide meals and vitamin supplements, as well as teaching teens about making good food choices, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

As of 2015, 274 children in early learning centers received meals through their schools, 118 children received vitamin A supplements and 302 children received deworming medicine.

Feed the Children also promotes community malnutrition detection education to increase the number of children that can access quality and timely treatment. This initiative advocates family health planning as a realistic and sustainable method to minimize hunger in Uganda.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Saving Mothers, Giving Life Reduces Maternal Mortalities in Africa
Almost every two minutes, a woman dies from preventable causes during pregnancy or childbirth. Delays in seeking care, reaching care and receiving care are the primary causes of neonatal and maternal mortalities in Africa. Saving Mothers, Giving Life is a public-private partnership launched by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 as a five-year initiative to reduce avoidable maternal mortalities in Africa.

For every 1.6 million annual births in Uganda, almost 6,000 women and 34,000 newborns do not survive. In fact, approximately one in 44 Ugandan women will die due to maternal-related complications. These dangers are comparably high in Zambia and Nigeria, as well as in other parts of Africa.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL), in coordination with the Ugandan and Zambian governments, addresses this problem by improving supply systems and better equipping health care facilities, providing training to enhance the quality of delivery and emergency response services, mobilizing communities to demand better delivery and family planning services and advancing communication and transportation systems which render health care facilities more accessible.

Since SMGL’s inception, Ugandan institutional maternal mortalities have decreased by 45 percent, and the number of cesarean sections has increased by 31 percent. Stillborn and perinatal mortality rates are down 5 percent, while neonatal mortalities have dropped 6 percent. Similar dramatic success has been recorded in Zambia.

SMGL’s remaining two-and-a-half years will be dedicated to reducing maternal and infant mortalities in Nigeria, a nation which alone accounts for 25 percent of newborn deaths and 14 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. USAID recently pledged $18 million to SMGL toward efforts in Nigeria’s Cross River State.

Hopefully, the rapid results that Uganda and Zambia experienced following SMGL involvement indicate the kind of progress the Cross River State can anticipate over the next two years. With the continued dedication of initiatives like SMGL, it seems likely that maternal mortalities in Africa will become increasingly rare.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Universal Primary Education Policy
The Ugandan government spends roughly $300 million annually on universal primary education. Despite the government’s devotion to free public education, the universal primary education policy is enduring severe growing pains.

One main issue is that despite the government’s large expenditure, parents still pay for half of their students’ fees. According to Nelson Wanambi, an economist at Uganda’s Ministry of Education, parents now pay 46.9 percent for education whereas the government pays a mere 27.6 percent.

The high cost for families causes many children to drop out of school as education becomes burdensome for parents. This economic strain on families contributes to Uganda’s staggering 75.2 percent primary school dropout rate.

After the universal primary education was introduced in 1997, Ugandan schools grew at such a high rate that not enough teachers could be trained to accommodate the increased enrollment rate. Further, many teachers receive insufficient salaries, resulting in strikes and frequent teacher absenteeism.

Fortunately, the government has recently received financial support from the Global Partnership for Education. The most recent contribution was over $100 million to support Uganda’s Education Sector Strategic Plan (EESP). The ESSP originally ran from 2004-2015, and the Global Partnership for Education has made a pledge to continue the program from 2014-2018.

As in many developing nations, gender-related issues contribute to the high drop out rate. On average, Ugandan boys stay in school for two more years than girls — 6.3 compared to 4.5 years respectively. In Uganda, 30 percent of girls drop out of school when they start menstruating because they cannot afford sanitary pads.

Organizations like Afripads, which is headquartered in Uganda, work to increase accessibility to sanitary pads for young girls and provide job opportunities for Ugandan women. Some schools, such as Katwe primary school, are successfully implementing the universal primary education policy. At Katwe, the school provides sanitary pads for their female students.

In theory, the universal primary education program would relieve the burden for many families to pay tuition for their children and increase graduation rate. However, the program has faced many obstacles. With the help of organizations such as Global Partnership for Education and Afripads, Uganda’s future for education is bright once again.

Sabrina Yates

Photo: Flickr

Refugee Education in Kenya and Uganda: Xavier Project Takes the Lead
Education is the most neglected sector when it comes to humanitarian response on a global level. It is the most underfunded, yet continues to be one of the most important. The Xavier Project works to provide safe, educational opportunities to refugee children living in urban areas of Kenya and Uganda.

Founded in 2008 by an ambitious young university student in the United Kingdom, the Xavier Project first took off after a 400-person shindig raised 1,500 pounds to help support refugee education in Kenya and Uganda. Since then, the project continues to offer a sustained and individually tailored education program through financial sponsorship, outside support and mentoring.

The project sets its focus on three crucial areas: education, livelihood and media. The education department of Xavier Project aims to increase access to a good formal education for refugee children in Kenya and Uganda. The “Tamuka department” aims to make vocational and life-long learning available to all refugees even in emergency situations.

The education department helps to increase access to education in Kenya and Uganda through sponsorship of refugee children. The sponsorship provides extra-curricular courses and camps, school visits with mobile libraries and teacher training programs, and runs activities to promote the education of refugee girls. Through access to libraries and mobile phone learning opportunities, the project provides refugees with ways of enhancing their learning from home and outside of school.

By paying school fees and through other support Xavier Project is giving 996 refugee children the opportunity to go to school. In Kenya, that is 65 in early childhood development, 592 primary school students and 159 secondary school students. In Uganda, that is 154 primary school students and 26 secondary school students.

Tamuka is the program designed to handle the media side of things within Xavier Project. It is the platform to give refugees an audible voice and let them speak out about the realities of their lives. Refugees are able to publish, learn from and interact with unbiased information anonymously and without necessarily having access to the internet.

The goal of Tamuka is that through an open media, refugees will be able to bring about social change in their host country or country of origin in a gradual and democratic way. Xavier Project wants refugees to be able to tell the rest of the world about their personal experiences. Voicing their stories could lead the international community to question processes and existing policies that they take for granted.

In 2015 Xavier Project’s consolidated income was 350,000 pounds of which 38 percent was unrestricted funding. Since 2008 Xavier Project’s income has increased by at least 50 percent every year. Their initiative to move the gauge forward when it comes to refugee education in Kenya and Uganda has been anything short of successful.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

Uganda Refugees
A landlocked country located between Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda is an East African Nation that has been constantly plagued by violence. Since gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1962, the Ugandan people have been forced to deal with dictatorships, military coups, wars and a 20-year insurgency from the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The nations that border the country of Uganda are additionally tormented with instability and violence which have pushed many people into the country.

Here are 10 interesting facts that you may not know about Uganda refugees:

  1. As of 2016, there are 512,000 documented asylum seekers and refugees in the country of Uganda.
  2. Uganda refugees are slowly outnumbering the current citizen population within Uganda. In Uganda, areas like the Adjumani district expect to see the number of people seeking refuge in the country exceed the number of local inhabitants.
  3. Local farmers are in conflict with Uganda refugees. With Uganda refugee populations increasing every day, many farmers find themselves with little land to grow crops. This is due in part to the fact that the government takes portions of land from farmers in order to make room for the incoming people. This seizing of land for asylum seekers creates internal conflicts between local farmers and people seeking refuge.
  4. Roughly 85% of refugees entering the country are women and children.
  5. Migration into cities has left Uganda refugees at a cultural disadvantage. Although Uganda has warmly welcomed people seeking refuge, cultural barriers still pose a major obstacle to Uganda refugees. Barriers such as language, adapting to Uganda’s culture, stereotypes and general safety simultaneously affect the everyday lives of Uganda refugees.
  6. Uganda has hosted approximately 550,000 refugees as of July 2016. Of the 550,000 refugees, 315,000 are asylum seekers from South Sudan, while an additional 200,000 individuals are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  7. Uganda does not question or interrogate people seeking refuge. With constant violence on the borders of Uganda, millions of people have fled their countries in order to escape unimaginable horrors.
  8. The U.N. Refugee Agency has acknowledged the nation of Uganda as having exceptional policies regarding refugees. In 2006, the country passed a Refugee act that provided refugees with employment, education, right to property, dignity and overall self-sufficiency; Uganda implemented policies that allow people seeking refuge to work in order to contribute to the nation’s economy.
  9. The continuity of violence in areas, like South Sudan, increased refugee migration into Uganda, which has overwhelmed local aid agencies. Overcrowding has become a serious issue in areas like Adjumani, which is home to the Nyumanzi reception center for refugees, as a result. The reception center is supposed to host up to 3,500 individuals; however, overcrowding in Nyumanzi has led to over 8,000 people residing at the reception center.
  10. There are many Uganda refugees that still cling to the idea that they are able to return home and resume the life they once had. A quote from a refugee who fled from Burundi, Cedric Mugisha, states, “In Burundi, I have a life, my life was promising. I miss my family, I don’t know where they are, and I don’t know what happened to my friends.”

Though many refugees have experienced tremendous hardships and trials while fleeing from their homes to Uganda, many positive efforts are underway in order to improve their quality of life. The Uganda government and humanitarian organizations, such as the U.N. Refugee Agency, are continuously providing aid and support for the many Uganda refugees.

Shannon Warren

Hunger in Africa and Asia
The fight against hunger in Africa and Asia remains a life-threatening issue. However, in an attempt to end this crucial battle for good, the government of Japan has generously donated a total of $21.6 million to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Distributed among 11 countries, the cash contribution will be used strictly to provide both food and nutrition assistance while consciously adapting to each country’s current needs, necessities and issues.

Countries receiving a majority share of the funding include Guinea ($3.8 million) and Uganda ($2.5 million), while Sri Lanka, the lone South Asian country benefiting from the endowment, will obtain $2.2 million.

In Guinea, the money will be specifically focused on assisting an estimated 150,000 school children in areas where food insecurity has significantly worsened as a result of the recent Ebola outbreak, while mothers in Uganda will receive essential education in health and growth monitoring.

Worldwide, malnutrition and undernutrition are two serious problems for children under five. Nearly half of all deaths in this portion of this population can be connected to undernutrition, while estimated one-in-five children under five are directly affected by malnutrition.

Food insecurity issues are immensely consequential and severe as they greatly increase the harshness and rate of contractible common infections, stall recovery and reduce one’s education.

In addition to this contribution, a number of organizations and initiatives such as The Hunger Project and Feed the Future are currently working to end hunger in Uganda.

The WFP was established in the early 1960s and is presently the world’s largest humanitarian agency dedicated to fighting hunger worldwide. The voluntarily funded organization reaches more than 80 million people in 82 different countries on average annually.

In 2015 alone, total contributions to WFP reached $5 billion, and as of Sept. 25, donations for 2016 are at $4.3 billion.

This funding from the government of Japan will surely go far in ending hunger in Africa and Asia. With a multitude of organizations and momentous contributions annually, the fight against food insecurity truly doesn’t stand a chance.

Jordan J. Phelan

Photo: Flickr