Where are the poor in Uganda?

The first high-resolution poverty maps of Uganda are published to speed pro-poor development in that country. Uganda has some of the poorest people in the world. For the first time, the question Where are the poor in Uganda? can be answered, as a result of sophisticated poverty maps developed by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). These maps provide facts and figures on poverty and inequality by region, district and county, highlighting where the poorest are located and estimating the numbers of poor and levels of poverty. These maps are important because they can be used to ensure that resources are targeted at those most in need. This will avoid a 'shotgun' approach that can ultimately result in failure to reach the poorest, and inadvertently benefit the non-poor.

Snapshot: Uganda Uganda, located in eastern Africa, has an estimated population of 25.3 million and an annual population growth rate of 2.7%. The country has been plagued by an on-going 18-year-old war in the north between the government and rebel fighters. The rebels have become notorious for their crimes against civilians and for the abduction and murder of children. This has resulted in about 20,000 displaced persons, many of whom live in government 'internally displaced' camps. Over a million women and children have been affected. Children too afraid to sleep at night for fear of being abducted by rebels during their dawn raids on villages leave their homes each evening. They have become known as the 'night commuters' of northern Uganda – travelling from their villages to the safety of towns to avoid capture. Although this paints a bleak picture, Uganda as a whole has made great strides, taking advantage of significant growth in the 1990s and is considered a model of development in Africa. Crippling inflation rates have been brought under control and GDP growth has been impressive, at 7.9% in 1999 and with a projected growth rate of 6.2% in 2005. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, contributing over 32% of GDP and employing over 80% of the work force. Uganda's principal export is coffee, along with fish, fish products, cotton and tea. Despite Uganda's progress and concerted poverty reduction efforts, poverty is still widespread, with an estimated 38% of the population living below the national poverty line. The latest figures show the average life expectancy of a Ugandan is 43 years (47 years in 1990), infant mortality is 83 per 1000 live births, and under-5 mortality is 141 per 1000 children. The annual number of births is 1.3 million, but an estimated 184,000 children under 5 die each year. (Data sources: World Bank; UNICEF.)

Poverty mapping Until now, poverty statistics for Uganda have masked wide differences and revealed little about where the poor are located and where the greatest poverty reduction efforts should be concentrated. Newly released poverty maps present poverty and inequality estimates for Uganda's four regions, 36 districts, and 100+ counties. The maps also highlight changes that have taken place between 1992 and 1999. The maps show that poverty levels vary widely between and within regions, districts and counties. Encouragingly, the results show that more than 90% of Uganda's rural counties have estimated poverty levels that were lower in 1999 than in 1992. Of these, 29% experienced declines of between 0 and 30%. Most of the declines were in Uganda's western, central and eastern regions, while only a few counties in northern Uganda experienced the decline. The northern region also remained the poorest, with over 75% of the population classified as poor in 1999. Establishing exactly where the poor are located is a crucial first step to help target poverty reduction strategies at those most in need. As the authors agree, poverty maps and tables provide information while also raising more questions. Poverty mapping is nevertheless becoming an increasingly valuable tool in identifying ways to improve living standards of the poor, because the maps can be used to help design and implement pro-poor development strategies that are both effective and inclusive. Poverty is complex and multifaceted. There is no one universally agreed definition of poverty, and due to its complexity, no one indicator can measure all the dimensions of poverty simultaneously. Efforts concentrate on a few dimensions, such as income and consumption, and rely on many different data collection efforts. To obtain rich qualitative data and further insights, different data sets can be combined. For example, when poverty maps showing where the poor are located are used in combination with budget, socioeconomic, environmental and other information, the maps become a rich source of information for development planning and policy formulation. Most importantly, more precise geographic targeting of pro-poor expenditures can maximize the coverage of the poor while minimizing leakage to the non-poor. Poverty maps and tables also facilitate budget allocation and allow the distribution of central government resources according to the prevalence of poverty in different areas. Policymakers will be armed with more transparent evidence, and will be able to more accurately target public resources and service delivery. Changes in poverty in Uganda between 1992 and 1999 The results from the analysis of poverty changes are encouraging, with large and widespread decreases in poverty seen countrywide. The authors warn that these trends should be viewed as indicative only. Cautious interpretation of the 1999 estimates is required due to the relatively small number of households surveyed in the panel. The 1999 maps are being updated, making use of new census data. Some of the results show: The highest drops in poverty in rural areas between 1992 and 1999 were in central and parts of western regions in the districts of Kibaale, Luwero, Bushenyi, Rakai, Mpigi and Kisoro. Poverty increased in Arua, Moyo and Apac in the northern region and Kasese District in the western region. At the county level, almost all rural areas in Uganda benefited from the growth that took place during the 1990s. Poverty worsened in 8% of Uganda's rural counties. Increasing inequality was observed in the northern region and some districts in the western region including Masindi, Kasese and Bundibugyo. There are pockets of high poverty levels, but these are spread over the different regions and occur in both rural and urban areas. Poverty rates were greatest in the least secure areas of the northeast and northwest and parts of the eastern region. Some small areas ('hotspots') with very high numbers of poor people also occur in many areas of Uganda. The highest poverty density was in counties in Mbale District (eastern region) and Kisoro District (western region). High densities were also observed in counties in Kasese (western region), Masaka (central region), Kampala (central region) and Tororo (eastern region). The central region stood out as the least poor region in 1992 and 1999 for both rural and urban areas. The district-level poverty incidence (that is the percent of the population falling below the relevant poverty line) ranged from 31 to 64% in 1992. The poorest district was Mubende, with more than 64% of its rural population living below the poverty line. Kampala District stood out as the wealthiest district with only 15% of its population living below the poverty line. The eastern region has a population of 3.7 million in rural areas and 0.3 million in urban areas. This region had the widest variation in poverty levels, with Jinja District having the lowest poverty (38%) in 1992 while Kumi had the highest at 82%. County-level variations were even higher. The northern region, with over 75% of the population poor in 1992, remained the poorest region in Uganda in 1999. The poorest districts were Kotido and Kitgum, with poverty incidences of 91%, while Arua and Lira stood out as the least-poor districts. There was significantly more variation in poverty in this region at both the district and county levels. The western region ranked the second least-poor in Uganda. More than one-half of the rural population and one-third of the urban population lived below the poverty line in 1992. Rural poverty was highest in Kisoro and lowest in Mbarara districts. In 1999 there was considerable variation in poverty incidence in this region. Masindi, Bundibugyo and Kasese had greater than 50% poverty incidence, whereas relatively wealthy districts such as Mbarara and Bushenyi had poverty levels below 20%.

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