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Uganda Key Message Update: Poor households in Karamoja and refugee settlements continue to have food consumption gaps, July 2020

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The Government of Uganda eased several significant COVID-19 movement restrictions in July, such as permitting boda boda transportation to resume and re-opening several business sectors. Increased mobility and economic activity is anticipated to improve poor households’ access to income-earning opportunities, particularly in urban areas and in the informal sector, leading to improvements in food access. Overall, however, the deceleration of the economy – characterized by above-normal levels of unemployment and under-unemployment giving rise to decreased consumer spending – is projected to keep poor households’ income below levels prevailing before the pandemic. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will most likely be experienced in urban areas through early 2021.

In bimodal rural areas, the ongoing first season harvest is replenishing household and market stocks. Consumption of own-produced food and income from crop sales is enabling most poor households to meet their minimum food and non-food needs, indicative of Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. At the household level, however, the number of people that are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is higher than average due to reduced income from crop sales and agricultural labor, resulting from below-normal demand for agricultural products. In localized areas of Western and Central regions, where recent floods or landslides caused significant crop losses and local harvests are below average, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely. To meet their minimum food needs, poor households in areas like Kasese are relying on income earned from sales of livestock, poultry, trees, and timber and from on- and off-farm labor.

The reduced demand for agricultural products is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestically, the economic impacts led to declines in institutional demand – such as from restaurants, hotels, and boarding schools – and urban household demand. Regionally, the mandatory testing of truck drivers at border crossing points, business uncertainty in destination markets, and the business risks associated with the variations in preventive measures between countries led to higher transportation costs and a decline in exports. For example, during the second quarter of 2020, maize export volumes declined by 55 percent compared to the same period of 2019 and 58 percent compared to the five-year average for the second quarter, driven primarily by a reduction in exports to Kenya. Lower demand has put downward pressure on staple food prices, leading to reduced incomes for farmers.

In Karamoja, poor households are unable to meet their food needs due to the delayed, below-average main season harvest resulting from erratic rainfall distribution. Household income is also below normal, driven by the negative impact of COVID-19 movement restrictions on demand for natural resource products, alcohol, and livestock-related labor. Although retail prices for sorghum have declined, most households do not have sufficient income to purchase their food and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are prevalent. However, WFP began distributing rations of maize, dry beans, and fortified vegetable oil in July, targeting at least 130,000 children from July to September with schools projected to remain closed; the number of beneficiaries is similar to those reached with school meals in a typical year. The short-cycle cereal harvest in September will most likely drive an improvement in food security outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

According to UNHCR/OPM and WFP, the refugee response in Uganda continues to be underfunded. WFP will be able to deliver a 70 percent ration through September and a 60 percent ration beginning in October. As of June 30, Uganda is hosting 1,425,040 refugees and asylum seekers. New refugee arrivals in the first half of 2020 total 21,213, which represents 34 per cent of the expected refugee influx for 2020 according to the Uganda 2019-2020 Refugee Response Plan. Although about 40 percent of refugees have an arable plot and harvested own-produced crops in June/July, dependence on food assistance is very high and access to other income sources remains limited, particularly in Adjumani, Arua, and Moyo. Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to prevail through October. From November to January, increasing freedom of movement to access sources of income and the second season harvests will most likely result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.