3.4 million more Ugandans slip into poverty

Karimojong eat porridge offered by the Office of the Prime Minister recently. Karamoja sub-region is worst hit by poverty. PHOTO BY STEVEN ARIONG

Kampala- More Ugandans are slipping into poverty with the number of poor people increasing from 6.6 million in 2012/13 to 10 million in 2016/17, according to the Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS) 2016/17 report released yesterday by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS).
The above development translates into income poverty levels rising from 19.7 per cent to 27 per cent.
At the sub-regional level, the survey cites the worst hit regions as Karamoja, with 61 per cent of the people categorised as income poor, followed by Bukedi with 48 per cent and Busoga with 42 per cent.
Income poverty means the proportion of Ugandans whose personal income lies below the poverty line, which is $1.25 (about Shs4,500) a day.

The new revelation implies that the country is sliding into poverty, which clearly shows that government’s multiple development efforts of eradicating poverty have not yielded much over the last five years.

Dr Ibrahim Kasirye, the Principal Research Fellow in the Macroeconomic department at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), in an interview with Daily Monitor during the launch of the report, said the increase in income poverty level means that three of every 10 Ugandans slipped into poverty in five years.
“What this means is that out of 10 people, three people fell below the poverty line. In other words, they became poor in the period the survey covered,” Dr Kasirye said.

“They live on less than $1.25 per day and they cannot afford to meet all their basics needs and cannot afford three meals a day,” he added.
Explaining why poverty rose in eastern Uganda, Dr Kasirye said people in the region purely depend on agriculture and are always hit hardest during drought.

“There are few trees and the land has become infertile and besides, there are no animals in eastern Uganda as it used to be because they have died of diseases,” he said.
Dr Madina Guloba, a research fellow at EPRC, said: “The rising poverty level in Busoga, besides the factors that UBOS has spelt out, is a combination of commercialisation of sugarcane growing instead of growing more food crops and they have resorted to buying food.”
Presenting the findings of the UNHS survey in Kampala, Mr James Muwonge, the UBOs director of Social Economic Surveys, said the incidence of poverty is highest in the eastern region with 42 per cent.

“All regions registered an increase in the number of poor persons with the exception of the northern region where the number of poor persons decreased from 3.1 to 2.4 million. The eastern region registered the biggest increase from 2.4 million in 2012/13 to more than 4.2 million in 2016/17. Surprisingly, the number of poor persons in the sub-region increased in both rural and urban areas,” Mr Muwonge said.
He blamed the worsening situation on drought, sharp changes in prices of goods and services, crop diseases/pests, livestock diseases, storm, human epidemic, floods, power outages displacement related development activities.
Mr Ben Paul Mungyereza, the UBOS executive director, said increase in income poverty has been caused by decline in GDP growth rate over the last two financial years.

“The GDP grew by 4.8 per cent in Financial Year 2015/16 and 3.9 per cent in 2016/17. When you see GDP growth rate going down, then there is little income being generated by the people,” he said.
Mr David Bahati, the state minister of Planning, while launching the report said: “It is not shocking that we have these figures. We have been experiencing shocks in the economy. However, government is going to make it a priority that poverty level is reduced below 27 per cent or even below 19.7 per cent where it was before.”
Mr Bahati said government will intensify irrigation to increase agricultural production and productivity.

Statistics in survey report

Household expenditure. Average household monthly expenditure rose from Shs328,200 in 2012/13 to Shs351,600 in 2016/17.
Education. The literacy rate has increased from 70 per cent per cent to 74 per cent.
Labour. The size of the labour force in 2016/17 was estimated to be about 10 million, from 8.8 million in 2012/13.
Health. Malaria (26%) and respiratory infections (18%) were the major symptoms. A higher percentage of the population (48%) visited private hospital/clinic when ill than government health facilities (34%).