22 March 2019

Uganda: Poverty Levels Double, Survey Shows

Kampala — A latest survey shows that poverty levels among Ugandans more than doubled last year.

The 2019 Twaweza report captured details of the most serious problems facing Ugandans today.

The report has singled out poverty with 29 per cent in 2018 up from 14 per cent in 2017 as a major problem Ugandans are grappling with.

Poverty was followed by lack of employment in the country and the high cost of living that has made it difficult for many households to provide a daily meal.

Dubbed, 'More Food, Less Money', the survey was carried out between November 15 and 27, 2018 by Sauti Za Wananchi, a Kiswahili dialect translated as voices of citizens. The researchers interviewed 1,905 aged 18+ and were picked from across the country.

The study further highlights that four out of five Ugandan households (81 per cent) say their household income does not meet their daily expenses.

Although the figures don't change from the previous findings, Ms Marie Nanyanzi, the programme officer of Sauti Za Wananchi said the amount of money households need every day has reduced from Shs11,800 to Shs10,300 in the same period.

"We found out that poverty and economic concerns were high on citizens' list of problems facing their households. Hunger and inflation were also most cited as household problems. Four out of five households say they lack sufficient income for their daily needs," Ms Nanyanzi said.

However, the study discovered that Ugandans facing financial difficulties have been forced to reduce their expenditure as a copying mechanism instead of borrowing money to meet their daily needs.

The research, however, does not give reasons why poverty had increased or in which district it was highest.

Reacting to the findings, Mr Mondo Kyateka, the Commissioner Youth and Children Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, said people have failed to listen to some of the government interventions because they are lazy.

"People have refused to listen to information even when it is being given. So many programmes have been initiated. I have seen women as early as 6am carrying baskets of merchandise. There is work to do. There is a lot of land to till. When I was young, people would go to work in the morning, come for lunch and go back to dig and return in the evening. People have become lazy because of entitlement mentality that somebody must give, especially the youth," Mr Mondo said yesterday.

"We used to clean our homes under the bulungi bwansi (community service). Sanitation would be maintained under communal arrangement and that was sustainable. This has died out because somebody wants government to do that."

However, Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, an economist at Makerere University Business School (Mubs), disagreed asking government to stop running the system as if there were no rules.

He advised government to create situations like danger or incentives that push the public to respond immediately if they are to notice positive change.

"Stop running Uganda as if there were no rules and if they were, there is no referee. We have killed agriculture in Uganda because farmers are not assured of good return on investment. We are here blaming Ugandans as the problem. We are the problem; those who are planning for them, those who are leading them," Mr Ggoobi said.

Ms Agnes Kirabo, the Food Rights Alliance executive director, said: "Those in authority think that the people we are supposed to serve don't understand, are ignorant and illiterate. But these people are action oriented. You don't expect a farmer to go back to growing maize if they made losses in the last season."

The findings also show that three out of four citizens are dissatisfied with the country's direction on economic management (72 per cent), corruption (70 per cent) and employment (67 per cent).

Security improved last year from 62 per cent in 2017 to 48 per cent. At least half of the households interviewed were hungry but didn't eat because there was no enough money while 61 per cent skipped a meal because there was no resources.

More respondents (81 per cent) at household level said their income was not enough to cover their daily expenses compared to 78 per cent in 2017.

Sauti Za Wananchi is a nationally- representative, high-frequency mobile phone panel survey.

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