In 2011, OCHA began the final preparations to close its country office in Uganda. Following the discontinuation of clusters in December 2010, OCHA continued to transition remaining humanitarian coordination structures, such as information management and inter-agency analysis, handing over responsibilities to the Government and development partners at the end of 2011. The HCT produced a Humanitarian Profile for 2011 to replace the CAP. For 2012, the Government began developing its own Humanitarian Profile. OCHA closed its three field offices in early 2011. It integrated two national programme officers into the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO) in northern Uganda to provide coordination support to district authorities until the end of 2011. OCHA information management services and capacity were absorbed into the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
In line with OCHA’s transition plan, preparedness activities were prioritized in 2011. They included support in developing a common framework for needs assessment, hazard and risk analysis, and Government participation in regional preparedness training courses. OCHA provided technical and financial support for contingency planning in the Karamoja sub-region, which included developing district-level plans and conducting simulation exercises. OCHA worked with partners such as OXFAM and UNICEF to transfer lessons learned from this process. Efforts were made to strengthen links between the Government’s Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda and disaster preparedness and response capacity, notably that of the National Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction.
An ECHO-funded drought-preparedness project in Karamoja broke new ground for OCHA’s engagement with ECHO in the “pre-crisis phase of a slow-onset disaster”. The project aims to strengthen early warning capacity of development partners in the context of slow onset disasters.
Progress on preparedness and risk-reduction strategies was challenged by competing priorities. More commitment from the Government and development counterparts is needed, particularly in conducting lessons learned exercises on disaster response. The Government’s response to disasters such as landslides, floods and epidemics requires constant evaluation, or there is a danger that the Government and partners will be unable to identify strengths and weaknesses or improve preparedness and response for the next disaster.
Successful preparedness will require additional Government resources and accelerated efforts to institutionalize preparedness and planning mechanisms. This includes improved management of the National Platform. Implementing key UNDAC recommendations to improve disaster preparedness and response from 2008 is important, as is a more coherent information flow between the national and district levels, developing a national contingency plan, and establishing strategic partnerships with the Red Cross and the private sector. UNCT support will be required to push these priorities forward by operationalizing the 2011 National Policy on Disaster Management.
North-eastern Uganda, particularly Karamoja, remains the main area of residual humanitarian concern. This area is vulnerable to natural hazards and is the main focus of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ forced disarmament of Karamajong pastoralist groups. During 2011, agencies in Karamoja, under OHCHR’s leadership, advanced a more human rights-based approach to the ongoing concerns. However, protection concerns persisted throughout 2011, particularly in relation to former IDPs. It was observed that female- and child-headed households are experiencing difficulties and long-term solutions have proved elusive. OCHA supported the regional Protection Working Group by facilitating sector coordination and needs assessments based on the IASC Guidelines on Gender.
OCHA Uganda and the Brookings Institute organized a regional workshop on Promoting and Protecting Rights in Disasters in the Great Lakes. The workshop was complemented by a Forum on the AU Convention on Assistance to IDPs in June 2011, which drew about 50 participants from Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. They shared lessons and proposed actions for their respective countries.