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Uganda Key Message Update: Floods and COVID-19 restrictions lead to an increase in the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), May 2020

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  • In May, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely in areas where floods or landslides have caused widespread destruction of household assets and disruption to livelihoods. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are also likely in many urban areas, where COVID-19 movement restrictions continue to constrain household income sources and reduce household purchasing power. In Karamoja, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are driven not only by seasonally low household food stocks, but also by cattle raiding and by movement restrictions that have closed school feeding programs and have led to reductions in both household income from livestock sales and casual labor. An atypically high number of people are likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 on their income sources.

  • Moderate to locally heavy rainfall in late April and early May caused widespread floods across Uganda, including around Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, and Lake Kyoga and in southern Karamoja. Lake Victoria’s water levels are the highest on the 60-year record. According to government sources, the floods have displaced an estimated 24,335 people and affected 176,620 people, in addition to destroying homes, crops, and infrastructure and disrupting livelihoods activities. In areas not affected by floods, cumulative March to May rainfall ranges from average to above average, but rainfall distribution has been relatively erratic from week to week.

  • In areas where floods were widespread, including Kasese, Bundibugyo, and Ntoroko, crop losses are likely to result in below-average first season harvests at the district level in May/June. Outside of the flood-affected areas, remote sensing imagery and rainfall distribution data suggest typical crop growth in southern Uganda, where green consumption of legumes and maize is already improving food availability. However, crop production prospects in central to northern Uganda are more uncertain and will depend on rainfall performance in June. According to information from FAO and key informants, desert locust swarms have declined in size due to control measures and/or onward migration and pose a declining threat to crop production and pasture in the northeast. Impacts are most likely to be localized in scale.

  • Movement restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been in place since March 18th, with 317 cases confirmed as of May 29th. Although some measures have been eased to permit limited economic activity, many poor urban households that rely on daily wages continue to face difficulty purchasing their minimum food needs due to a reduction or loss of income. With limited coping strategies available to expand their food or income sources, many households are reducing the quantity and dietary quality of daily meals. Although the government previously announced plans to distribute food assistance to 1.5 million people in Kampala, information on the actual number of beneficiaries and ration size (cash or in-kind) remains difficult to obtain and verify.

  • In April, the retail price of staple foods such as maize, sorghum, and cassava declined to near-average levels after panic buying caused price spikes in mid-to late March after the onset of COVID-19 preventative measures. A decline in aggregate demand resulting from lower institutional purchases and lower household purchasing power is offsetting the impact of some supply chain disruptions, which are attributed to enhanced screenings of imported food commodities and reduced informal trader activity. In addition, recent harvests of sweet potatoes, bananas, and cassava have contributed to stabilized prices. However, the retail price of 1 kg of beans rose by 10-20 percent on average across key reference markets from March to April and was 35-45 percent higher on average compared to the previous year. These trends are expected to continue until first season harvests replenish supplies in June.

  • Given the closure of international borders, UNHCR/OPM registered only 199 and 45 new births among South Sudan and DRC in-country refugees, respectively. There were no new arrivals in April, unlike in March when 1,399 and 2,691 new refugees arrived, respectively. As of April 30, Uganda hosted a total of 1,423,740 refugees. Movement restrictions are expected to remain in place in border districts hosting large refugee populations beyond June. Given a protracted reduction in their ability to earn income and the concurrent 30 percent cut to food assistance rations, refugee households are expected to increase their reliance on negative coping strategies or face food consumptions gaps. With further ration cuts anticipated in July if funding is not secured, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to emerge in refugee settlements by July/August. Acute malnutrition levels are also likely to rise.