The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has lauded the United Kingdom for recent contributions of more than US$21 million to support WFP’s food assistance programmes in Uganda, noting that the funds are already making a difference for people in Karamoja and for refugees.
The UK government provided US$12.4 million for community-based projects and nutrition assistance in Karamoja, and US$9.2 million to help WFP provide lifesaving food assistance for refugees.
“Currently Uganda hosts more than 660,000 refugees, most of who rely heavily on WFP’s assistance for survival. There is no way we can meet all their needs without generous contributions, such as this one from UK Aid,” said WFP’s Acting Country Director, Mike Sackett.
The UK Aid funding will help WFP, working closely with the UN refugee agency UNHCR, to provide two types of support for refugees: monthly food assistance – in the form of either food or cash – and livelihoods support aimed at reducing post-harvest food losses.
“WFP needs about US$7 million per month to meet the food needs of more than half a million refugees in Uganda, and these costs will continue to rise as the number of refugees grows,” Sackett said.
Since August, a shortage of funds had forced WFP to cut food assistance in half for all refugees who arrived in Uganda before July 2015 – with the exception of particularly vulnerable groups such as orphans, the elderly, or people who are chronically ill and malnourished – in order to prioritize food assistance for refugees who have arrived more recently. That reduction remains in place, but the UK Aid funding helps WFP avoid deeper cuts, and enables WFP to continue providing life-saving assistance for people seeking refuge in Uganda from recent conflict erupting in their home countries. This includes more than 180,000 South Sudanese refugees who have sought shelter in Uganda in the last three months.
Increasingly, WFP is providing food assistance to refugees through cash transfers so they can buy the food they prefer in the local markets. Cash allows refugees to buy fresh foods and other items to diversify their diets, and stimulates local economies by increasing demand for locally produced food. WFP currently assists 65,000 refugees in Uganda with cash, and plans to expand cash-based assistance to 140,000 people by the end of the year, using funding from UK Aid and other donors.
The UK funds will also help sustain WFP’s livelihoods support activities, which assist longer-term refugees and host communities achieve self-reliance and peaceful co-existence. WFP specifically supports refugees and host communities to reduce post-harvest food losses. Such activities are part of a UN initiative – the Refugee and Host Population Empowerment strategy, or ReHOPE – which supports the government’s Settlement Transformative Agenda, part of the second National Development Plan.
This year the United Kingdom is the second largest contributor to WFP’s programmes in Uganda, and the largest donor to WFP’s nutrition and resilience activities in Karamoja.
The new UK funds will enable WFP to continue assisting nearly 200,000 people in Karamoja who are participating in the public works programme. The UK contribution will also make it possible for WFP and the Ministry of Health to provide specialized nutritious food to treat 65,000 malnourished children and adults in the region.
“The nutrition and public works activities in Karamoja are assisting Uganda to address chronically high rates of acute malnutrition, while helping communities build their resilience to shocks and stresses by creating productive assets,” Sackett said. These assets include water ponds and irrigation projects. As communities build them, individual households will participate in income-generation activities such as cultivation of vegetables and drought resistant staple crops for consumption and sale.
The UK Aid grant also allows WFP to support the creation of a digital information management system in Karamoja so that the Government and development partners can avoid gaps and duplication in assistance. The new digital system will contain information about social assistance programmes in Karamoja, and highlight which households are receiving support from the various programmes. The system will boost transparency, efficiency and accountability, and provide crucial information for monitoring the effectiveness of programmes.