Ugandans in nine urban areas were at Crisis levels of food insecurity or worse for months leading to August because of negative impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The worst affected of were Gulu, Jinja and Kasese where nearly one in three people struggled to find nutritious food on a regular basis.
For the rest of the year, Gulu and Kasese are expected to remain at Crisis levels even while their markets are supplied with harvests.
These were some of the findings of the most comprehensive Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted in Uganda to date, covering Kampala and other urban areas, the Karamoja region and refugee settlements and host communities for the first time.
The analysis was carried out by the Government of Uganda and three UN agencies and measures food insecurity from June through August and projected from September to December.
It was informed in part by real-time data gathered by remote telephone monitoring of households in 13 urban areas, refugee hosting districts and Karamoja region in the northeast. It is the first time, real-time data informed the IPC on urban areas.
The IPC attributed Crisis food insecurity to the loss of livelihoods in the informal sector, tourism, the travel and events industry and the education sector, reduced remittances and reduced commercial networks due to the closure of borders.
Releasing the results of the analysis, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, said that the Government is committed to ensuring food and nutrition security and well-being for all people in Uganda, including those in urban areas.
Onek speaks out
Speaking while releasing the results of the analysis, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, said Government is committed to ensuring food and nutrition security and well-being for all people in the country, including those in urban areas.
“With these new findings, we now know, reliably, who the most food-insecure people are in Uganda, where they are and what we can do to save lives and preserve livelihoods. Such knowledge is critical before we take any decisions,” Mr Onek said.
“We thank our partners for working with us to come up with this very important analysis. We now must continue to work together to find solutions to the issues raised in the study,” Mr Onek added.
Currently, through a collaboration with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations makes 10, 000 calls a month to monitor food security in refugee areas, 12 urban areas and Karamoja region.
Using the real-time and other data, the IPC found that refugees in all 13 settlements in Uganda along with more than 1.3 million Ugandans in refugee-hosting districts and Karamoja region experienced Crisis or worse levels of hunger between June and August.
In Karamoja, all districts had worrying levels of malnutrition among young children and pregnant and nursing women, with malnutrition above emergency levels in Moroto and Napak.
The IPC attributed the high levels of food insecurity in refugee hosting districts and Karamoja to WFP’s ration cuts for refugees, the lockdown, floods and subsequent food losses, animal and human diseases, insecurity in some parts of Karamoja and reduced remittances as key contributors to the situation.
“Ration cuts for refugees will remain in place until we secure sufficient funding. To be able to provide full rations for refugees in the settlements until the end of 2020, WFP needs nearly US$15.3 million immediately,” said WFP Uganda Country Director, Mr El-Khidir Daloum.
FAO’s Deputy Representative, Ms Priya Gujadhur said “As part of the UN Uganda’s Emergency Appeal launched earlier this year, FAO has appealed for USD 7.8 million for food security, nutrition and livelihoods interventions.
This will allow FAO to provide agricultural livelihood support and training in climate smart agricultural practices to help up to 10,000 of the most vulnerable households produce for their own consumption and diversify income sources through value chain development, thereby strengthening their resilience.”
Even with coming harvests this year, it is expected households will continue to struggle with food shortages partly because of lost incomes during the lockdown.
All refugee settlements are expected to remain at Crisis level at best. Food security should improve in nine out of 12 worst-affected refugee-hosting districts.
Malnutrition is expected to decline in two districts in Karamoja in the coming months.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Kampala Capital City Authority, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and WFP participated in the IPC analysis. The European Union, World Bank and UK Aid funded the exercise.