More Ugandans slide into poverty – report

Kampala. The latest State of Uganda Population Report 2018 shows that more Ugandans have become poorer in the last five years.
The report, released in Kampala on Thursday by the National Population Council, indicates that poverty levels have gone up in all regions.
But the report indicates declining poverty rate in northern Uganda and Karamoja sub-regions, even as they remain the poorest.
The report says poverty levels across the country rose from 19.7 per cent to 21.7 per cent between 2012/2013 and 2016/2017 financial years.
However, the report shows declining poverty levels in northern and Karamoja sub-regions over the last five years.
The report says poverty levels in Karamoja dropped from 74.5 per cent to 60.2 per cent between 2012/2013 and 2016/2017 financial years.
Similarly, poverty levels in northern Uganda dropped from 43.8 per cent to 32.5 per cent between 2013/2017 and 2016/2017 financial years.
But the report indicates rising levels of poverty in eastern region, growing from 24.1 per cent to 34.7 per cent between 2012/2013 and 2016/2017 financial years.
Despite the drop in poverty levels in Karamoja and northern Uganda, the sub-regions remain most poverty stricken, with eastern coming worse off after Karamoja.
Least poverty was reported in Kampala (2.6 per cent), western region (11.4 per cent), and central regions (11. – 15.6 per cent).
“The problem of poverty in the country is exacerbated by inequality that remains a major concern. Also the economic growth achieved over the past decades has not been in position to address the challenges of unemployment, especially among the youth and women, and yet leaving women and the youth behind slows down economic development,” the report reads in part.
The report calls for a deliberate effort from all stakeholders to manage family sizes at household level if poverty levels are to reduce.
Data from Uganda Bureau of Statistics show that the country’s population stood at 34.6 million in 2016 and is projected to grow at an annual average of 3 per cent.
The country’s average fertility rate stands at 5.8 children per woman.
The report blames unplanned population for competition for the limited resources and threatening economic prospect and the envisaged endowments of having a large youthful population. It says savings from managing a smaller family enable parents to offer their children better health and education services which generally raises the quality of human resource and labour supply that leads to economic growth.
“Uganda’s young population can be a valuable asset in driving the demographic dividend agenda. This will depend on the country’s ability to implement a development programme that recognises the importance of population dynamics in development. There is need to deliberately change Uganda’s age structure to transform the population to have more workers than dependents by reducing birth rates and investing in the health, skill, education and employment of the youthful population,” the report says.
The report, hinged on the theme, ‘Good governance; a prerequisite to harness the demographic dividend for sustainable development’, was released by Dr Jotham Musinguzi, the director general of National Population Council.
Dr Musinguzi said although the country’s fertility rate is going down, the country should drastically bring down the numbers in order to benefit from its youth.
“There is going to be a shift in how we do things. We are going to prioritise family planning. We must go to where majority of Ugandans live and that is in rural areas,” Dr Musinguzi said.
However, he admitted that some section of the population such as religious leaders have not yet accepted the use of family planning among the youth.
Dr Musinguzi said discussions are ongoing with the leaders to encourage them to support the move.
“These young people should not be involved in sex activities at this time. The best way is to give them information so that they protect themselves. Government is not pushing for any particular contraceptives for underage people. We also know that those young people are already adolescents. They are sexually active. We are going to make sure they do not only have information but can have services as well,” Dr Musinguzi said.
“I am aware that the country has not necessarily agreed on some of these issues. The religious leaders are still objecting but we are still discussing with them so that they are brought on board. If people are sexually active and you are a government and you do not give them information and services, what are you leaving them to do?”
The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, who presided over the launch of the report, said she was worried at the country’s rate of population growth.
“If you go in the rural areas, you find that the children are four times the number of adults. I keep asking myself, do we have schools for these children? I do not think we do. We need to go back on the drawing board,” she said.