Ugandans starve amid high food prices - study

A mother and her children sit on a ground during a nutrition screening at Nadunget Health Centre in Nadunget, Karamoja region, Uganda, on May 24, 2022.  More than half a million people are going hungry in the Karamoja region of Uganda, some 40 percent of the overall population eking out survival in an often-overlooked region between South Sudan and Kenya. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • The survey indicates that 52 percent of households skipped a meal in October last year due to lack of food.

A  new study has revealed that Ugandans experienced critical food shortage last year, with the majority going without a single meal in a day due to poverty.
According to a Twaweza’s Sauti za wananchi survey that was conducted last year, four out of 10 households (37 percent) in Uganda went without a single meal a day in September last year compared to 23 percent in December  2020, representing an increase in the number of starving Ugandans.

In the study: ‘ ‘The Cost of Living Crisis, Livelihood Concerns in Uganda,’’  the food shortage was attributed to the Covid-19-induced lockdown. 
Some Ugandans also lost their jobs and could not find another source of livelihood to fend for their families.

“Similarly, half of the households (48 percent) ran out of food in September 2021 compared to 36 percent in December 2020. Skipping a meal (52 percent) was also common response to lack of food or resources,” Ms Martha Chemutai, the manager in charge of advocacy at Twaweza, said during the presentation of the survey in Kampala yesterday.
The nationwide study aimed at amplifying the voices of the citizens for consideration in decision making. Data was collected from 3,000 respondents between September 15 and October 14, 2021.

They observed in the report that experiences of food insecurity were unequal, as poor households were hit harder than the wealthier families.
“In October 2021, 24 percent of wealthier households and 55 percent of the poorer households went without eating for a day, 37 percent of wealthier households and 66 percent of poorer ones had members who had to skip a meal,” Ms Chemutai said.
The survey further indicates that 52 percent of households skipped a meal in October last year due to lack of food or resources. In addition, several Ugandan households also experienced food stress in the second half of 2021.

According to the study, half of all households (48 percent) ran out of food at some point in the previous month and more than one out of three (37 percent) of the households went for a day without eating, while about 62 percent of households said they were worried that they would run out of food.
The report comes at a time when the country is experiencing escalating food prices.
The report reveals that Ugandans are facing a growing livelihood crisis as prices for food and basic commodities rise sharply.

 According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, between April last year and April 2022, there was a major increase in the cost of a range of commodities..
Cement prices, for example, increased by 28 percent, cooking oil (57 percent), and diesel (37 percent). Maize flour prices increased by 25 percent, matooke (24 percent), and laundry soap (82 percent).
The executive director of Twaweza, Mr Aidan Eyakuze, said the second Sauti za Wananchi Panel, which was launched yesterday, is to ensure that citizens’voices help in shaping official decision making. 
“These 3,000 citizens’ voices are added to many calling for relief to see the country go through these devastating price rises,”  he said.

While officiating at the launch of the panel, the State Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Mr Godfrey Kabbyanga, asked civil society organisations to sensitise citizens about their rights.
“Sometimes, citizens are intimidated when they demand for services because they do not know their rights. Twaweza and other organisations should help our people understand their rights,”  Mr Kabbyanga said.

Escalating food prices in past 12 months
The data from monthly markets and World Food Programme shows that market prices for staple foods have increased sharply. The price of maize flour has increased to Shs2,500, cassava flour(Shs2,000) sorghum(Shs250). These prices are all 30-50 percent higher than 12 months earlier. All these food types in April were higher than at anytime  in the past decade, except for 2017 when East Africa experienced drought, the study states.Ms Violet Alinda, the Twaweza, the country lead and director of voice and participation, said these price increases came at a time when many Ugandans were already facing food insecurity. 
 “Ugandans who have suffered deeply during the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns are again facing serious threats to their livelihoods. The time for action, to hear the call of citizens is now,” she said.