Uganda Key Message Update: Food security deteriorates in Karamoja as household food and income sources decline, January 2021

Situation Report
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Key Messages:

In most bimodal areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected through May. Cereal harvest and postharvest activities are nearly complete for the near-average second season harvest, except in parts of southwestern and northern Uganda. Many households also harvested non-cereal crops such as sweet potatoes and banana. At this time of year, farming households primarily depend on consuming their own-produced food stocks and selling their stocks for income. However, household and market stocks are atypically high due to continued, suppressed demand related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, while poor households can meet their minimum kilocalorie food needs, income to purchase non-food items is lower than normal. The upcoming first rainfall season (March-May), which is forecast to be above average, will offer opportunities for agricultural labor income and support a seasonal increase in livestock production.

In Karamoja, the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is likely rising even though most households remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Given the below-average unimodal harvest in 2020, some poor households have already depleted their food stocks and are primarily purchasing their food. Staple food price dynamics have evolved differently than projected, likely linked to an earlier-than-anticipated increase in household demand. In December, the price of a kilogram of sorghum was up to 10 percent above the five-year average in key reference markets. As a result, the terms of trade for sorghum against firewood, charcoal, and goats fell 5 to 55 percent below the five-year average in most markets. Based on the decline in food stocks and the terms of trade, an increasing number of households are expected to experience food consumption gaps as the March to August lean season progresses. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated by February.

In urban areas, market and trade functioning and household access to income sources has relatively stabilized following the results of the presidential election in early January. COVID-19 movement restrictions currently remain limited, but economic activity is still sluggish due to the pandemic’s economic impacts. The urban population experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes is assessed to be atypically high, driven by below-normal household income that is negatively affecting their purchasing capacity.

Food security outcomes in refugee settlements are expected to deteriorate to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) during the February-May period. Limited access to food and income sources, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, will likely result in food consumption deficits for many households. Further, WFP anticipates humanitarian food assistance will be cut by an additional 10 percent in February. The distribution of a 60 percent monthly cash or in-kind ration will likely be insufficient to prevent food consumption gaps, and there is a risk of an increase in acute malnutrition due to sustained food consumption gaps since April 2020. WFP reports a USD 95.8 million funding gap to provide full rations to the refugee population through June 2021. According to UNHCR/OPM, Uganda hosted 1,446,378 refugees and asylum seekers as of December 31, 2020.