Uganda currently hosts the largest refugee population of Africa, over 1 million refugees, and is in critical need of humanitarian support. This includes more than 800,000 South Sudanese refugees, of which some 572,000 are new arrivals since 8 July 2016. More people have fled South Sudan since July 2016 than Syria in the whole of 2016. With the present rates of arrival, that figure will surpass a million before mid-2017. This year alone, more than 172,000 South Sudanese refugees arrived in Uganda. The influx peaked in February 2017 at more than 6,000 in a single day. In March 2017, the peak in a single day has been more than 5,000 with the current daily average of over 2,800 arrivals overwhelming transit facilities in northern Uganda. But Uganda’s integrated refugee response incorporating host communities creates a unique situation and has been named as the model for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), adopted in September 2016 Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York. This marks Uganda as a frontline state for this new approach.
In December 2016, the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) directed a rapid food security assessment to be undertaken, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in coordination with OPM’s Department of Relief, Disaster Preparedness, and Management with support from FAO, UNDP, UNICEF and WFP, and other humanitarian partners. The national assessment found that an estimated 1.6 million people (5 per cent of the total population) are experiencing ‘crisis’ levels of food insecurity (i.e. widening food consumption gaps with deteriorating dietary diversity and high malnutrition rates), and 9.3 million people (26 per cent of the total population) are experiencing a ‘stressed’ situation (i.e. minimum adequate food consumption, employing insurance strategies and are unable to afford some essential non-food expenditures). In Karamoja, 12 per cent (123,096) of the population are in ‘crisis’, 30 percent (307,740) are experiencing ‘stressed’ food insecurity, and the remaining 58 percent (594,964) are minimally food insecure. The Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence for Karamoja is 12 percent, with 10,500 people admitted for malnutrition treatment from October to December 2016. This situation is likely to worsen as the Uganda Meteorological Authority forecasts below normal rainfall for Karamoja from March to May 2017 respectively.
People living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) are particularly vulnerable due to food insecurity, as anti-retroviral therapy (ART) needs to be taken with food. Of the estimated 20,600 persons living with HIV/AIDS in Karamoja only 27 percent are on anti-retroviral therapy (ART). The most affected districts by the current food security situation in Karamoja – Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Napak – are home to over fifty percent of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Karamoja. The UN in Uganda calls for persons (including children) living with HIV to be systematically, but confidentially targeted, for food assistance in areas facing elevated levels of food insecurity. Community outreach to identify at-risk children living with HIV should be prioritized. In addition, closer monitoring of negative coping mechanisms - such as transactional sex – is needed to reduce HIV infection, particularly among young women and girls.
(UPDATED: March 2017)