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In western, southern, and parts of central bimodal Uganda, most rural households are experiencing seasonal increases in access to food and income alongside first-season harvesting in June, supporting Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, in eastern and northern bimodal areas, where the March to May first season rainfall performance was below average and erratic, most rural households are experiencing a delayed start to harvesting and, consequently, atypically low food availability for June. Given below-average income from crop sales and higher-than-normal food prices, food access through market purchases also remains constrained. Many of these areas have experienced several consecutive seasons of below-average crop production, and face decreased coping capacity. As such, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to prevail through around November.
In Karamoja, households are in the midst of an atypically long and harsh lean season after a delayed and significantly below-average harvest in late 2022, with access to food currently limited by above-average staple food prices and highly eroded coping capacity, including atypically low livestock holdings. As such, most areas are expected to continue facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes throughout the projection period, with some of the poorest households likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). From September to November, seasonal improvements in the availability of food and income sources alongside the main harvest are expected to reduce the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, but only temporarily.
Beginning in July, most refugees living in settlements are expected to experience further humanitarian assistance ration reductions under WFP’s resource re-prioritization plan. After full implementation, 82 percent of the refugee population will receive monthly rations that only meet 30 percent of their minimum daily kilocalorie need, and 4 percent of refugees will no longer receive assistance. The 14 percent of households considered “highly vulnerable” will receive rations that cover 60 percent of their minimum daily kilocalorie need. Despite temporary seasonal decline in food prices in July/August during the harvest, poor refugees are expected to largely be unable to compensate for the ration reductions given their limited livelihood options and the above-average staple prices, despite seasonal price dips. Many will likely face moderate food consumption gaps or engage in damaging livelihood coping strategies to fill those gaps, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected. As more refugees deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3), the area-level classification of food security outcomes is projected to deteriorate from Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the coming months.
Prices of key staple foods – including maize flour, cassava flour, matoke, and sweet potatoes – generally declined from April to May. However, prices remain above levels recorded last year and the five-year average. This decline is likely attributable to the approach of the first season harvest and a decrease in the cost of fuel and, consequently, transportation. Nationally, the annual headline inflation rate has been declining since January as the gap between current prices and last year’s prices narrows, and in May reached 6.2 percent, down from 8 percent in April. The annual food crop inflation rate also eased to 15.7 percent in May, down from 25.3 percent in April. Further seasonal food price declines are expected in July/August alongside harvesting, improving the purchasing power of the urban poor who rely heavily on market purchases for food. However, the first season harvest is expected to be below average overall, and prices are expected to remain above last year and five-year average levels.
Seasonal rainfall performance: Rainfall during the March to May 2023 first season was erratic in spatial and temporal distribution, and cumulative rainfall ranged from below average in eastern, southern, and northern Uganda to above average in parts of western, central, and southeastern Uganda, according to data from CHIRPS (Figure 1). Overall, while first-season cumulative rainfall performance was better in 2023 than in 2022, rainfall in 2023 was still insufficient during the most critical vegetative and grain filling/maturation stages, and the erratic rainfall interspersed with dry spells (Figure 2) negatively impacted crop production.
Typically, the month of June is marked by reduced rainfall following the March to May first rainy season. In June, rainfall was near normal to above average in most bimodal areas, ranging from 90 to 150 percent of the long-term (1981-2010) average. In Karamoja, rainfall in June (the middle of the April to September rainy season) was generally near normal, ranging from 75 to 110 percent of the long-term average.
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Crop and livestock production: The timing of first season harvesting in bimodal areas has varied geographically based on the time of planting. Most harvesting and post-harvesting activities normally begin in June. However, some farmers that planted early, toward the end of February, particularly in localized areas in southwest and central Uganda, began harvesting legumes in May. As of June, harvesting is more advanced in southwestern and central regions, while it is delayed in greater northern Uganda. At the national level, first season crop production of cereals and legumes is estimated to be below average and below last year’s production levels, driven by reduced crop production in eastern and northern areas due to poor and erratic rainfall. However, crop production is expected to be better and near average overall in the southwest and parts of central Uganda.
Despite below-average cereal and legume crop production in some areas, seasonal food availability has improved with the harvests. However, harvesting is delayed in the north and east, with poor households accessing only limited food from green production. Meanwhile, root tubers like cassava, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, and horticultural crops are seasonally available. The dry harvest of legumes has also bolstered market supplies, seasonally reducing staple food prices, while most cereals are still being dried.
Despite the erratic nature of rainfall performance to date, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from satellite data suggests that near-average pasture conditions prevail across most bimodal areas as of mid-to-late June, with localized areas of below-average conditions. In Karamoja, pasture conditions are below average in eastern and southern parts of the region, with average to above-average conditions in the north. In general, the seasonal availability of pasture and water resources is near normal. In Karamoja, livestock body conditions are normal, with near-normal livestock productivity for milk and other products. However, overgrazing and fragmented land parcels cannot support the livestock owned in localized areas. Endemic livestock diseases like respiratory diseases, tick-borne and tsetse fly diseases, and worm-burden diseases are at typical levels.
Macroeconomic conditions: According to the Bank of Uganda’s Monetary Policy Statement for June 2023 and annual Gross Domestic Product data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), economic growth is estimated at 5.3 percent for fiscal year (FY) 2022/23, an increase from 4.5 percent in FY 2021/22. This is likely an indicator of economic recovery from the compounded impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and spikes in global commodity prices following the onset of the Ukraine-Russia war. According to the Bank of Uganda, slight improvements in the macroeconomic situation in FY 2022/23 are likely attributed to improvements in the agricultural sector, which grew five percent, in conjunction with the resilience of the services sector. Net exports and household consumption of goods and services also increased in FY 2022/23. The Bank of Uganda has reported increased business confidence, as reflected by the increase in the Business Tendency Index (BTI) for a fourth consecutive month in May 2023. These improvements are likely encouraging new business ventures and increasing income-earning opportunities and purchasing power for some urban poor. However, these improvements are relatively minor in relation to the high unemployment rate, with most poor households not realizing significant benefits.
The annual headline inflation rate continued to ease in May for the fifth consecutive month. From April to May 2023, annual headline inflation declined from 8.0 percent to 6.2 percent, with food inflation decreasing nearly 10 percentage points, from 25.3 percent in April to 15.7 percent in May 2023 (Figure 3). This decline is likely attributable to the easing of some staple food prices – like maize flour, cassava flour, matoke, and sweet potatoes – in May and a decrease in fuel prices and, consequently, transportation costs. Improved global supply chains and exchange rate stability, among other factors, have also contributed to the sustained decline in the annual headline inflation rate since January.
Source: Uganda Bureau of Statistics
Markets and trade: The prices of staple food commodities in bimodal Uganda were stable in May following the relatively early start to the green harvest of cereals and legumes in some areas in central, west, and southwest Uganda. The dry harvest of beans in the same areas also started in May. While first season production has been below average, supplies from the harvest are beginning to increase household food stocks and decrease market dependence and prices. Despite seasonal price decreases, staple food prices remain considerably higher than last year’s and the five-year average prices. In May, maize grain retail prices in bimodal Uganda were 7 to 31 percent higher than in 2022 and 27 to 53 percent above the five-year average (Figure 4). Meanwhile, bean retail prices ranged from roughly 35 to 70 percent above the prices in 2022 and the five-year average, respectively (Figure 5). Sorghum grain prices were generally stable month-on-month in May, but the price remains roughly 5 to 45 percent higher than in 2022 and ranges from 30 to 97 percent higher than the five-year average across bimodal markets. Similar trends were observed for cassava chip prices (Figure 6). While prices remain high, the easing of staple prices is increasing food access, particularly significant for the market-dependent urban poor households.
Meanwhile, in the Karamoja region, sorghum grain prices increased 6 to 17 percent across monitored markets from April to May to reach levels 8 to 31 percent higher than in May 2022 and 39 to 85 percent above the five-year average. Meanwhile, livestock prices declined by 13 to 34 percent from April to May across Karamoja, except in Napak where prices remained stable. Falling livestock prices are likely at least partially attributable to a reduction in the number of traders purchasing livestock due to concerns about theft and confiscation of their purchased animals. Livestock prices in May 2023 were 38 to 51 percent lower than in May 2022 in Moroto, Nakapiripirit, and Kaabong but remained 40 to 71 percent higher in Napak and Kotido. Compared with the five-year average, livestock prices were 24 to 51 percent higher in Napak and Kotido but 14 to 18 percent lower in Moroto, Nakapiripirit, and Kaabong. Insecurity and measures to contain the sustained livestock raids and theft have led to the closure of several livestock trade routes and reduced the volume of livestock trade.
In addition to high food prices, income from wages and sales of charcoal and firewood have also declined in some areas of Karamoja. Overall, poor households in Karamoja continue to experience below-average purchasing power. Additional analysis of Karamoja is provided on page 11 of this report.
To access income, very poor and poor households in bimodal areas are engaging in seasonally available agricultural opportunities associated with harvesting, bush clearing in grazing fields, and harvesting of sugarcane and tea on plantation farms. Other income-earning activities include crafts making, brewing, firewood collection, charcoal production, sand mining, bricklaying, and petty trading.
Current Food Security Outcomes
In rural areas of western, southern, and parts of central bimodal Uganda, despite below-average crop production in some areas, the start of first season harvesting in June is increasing poor households’ access to food from own crop production and income from agricultural labor and crop sales. Additionally, poor households are accessing income from other typical sources – including petty trade, off-farm casual labor, firewood/charcoal sales, and livestock products and sales– at normal levels. Overall, given increased seasonal access to food and income, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are likely.
However, in eastern and northern bimodal Uganda, which saw relatively worse rainfall performance during the March to May first rainy season, households are experiencing a delayed harvest and, consequently, below-average food availability for June. Some poor households are likely consuming their harvest in green form or receiving minimal to no harvests, given the below-average rainfall during critical crop growth stages. Food access through market purchases remains constrained due to below-average income from crop sales and higher-than-normal food prices. While the population of households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) has likely decreased between May and June, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to prevail at the area level as many poor households are not accessing normal seasonal food and income due to delayed harvesting and face decreased resilience due to several consecutive below-average production seasons.
In urban areas of Uganda, food security outcomes for poor households have improved due to seasonal income-earning opportunities and seasonal declines in food prices alongside improved supply from the harvest. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected overall.
In unimodal Karamoja, area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are most likely sustained in June. As the lean season progresses, most poor households face limited income-earning opportunities and sustained high staple food prices. Below-average rainfall has limited agricultural labor opportunities during the main agricultural season, as crop vigor is poor in most areas. Food purchases are currently households’ primary source of food, and, while there is food available in markets, purchasing power remains a severe limiting factor. Below-average terms of trade for sorghum against the sale of charcoal and firewood, amid sustained below-average labor wages, are likely further limiting households from meeting their minimum food needs. Given that most poor households own few, if any, livestock and have minimal access to livestock products and minimal capacity to liquidate assets to purchase food, food consumption is inadequate, and malnutrition among children continues to be prevalent. However, WFP supplementary feeding and nutrition programs targeting roughly 25,451 women and children and the Karamoja school meals program assisting about 210,191 schoolgoing children as of the end of May are likely helping prevent worse nutrition outcomes. Additional analysis of Karamoja is provided on page 11 of this report.
A field assessment done by FEWS NET among the rural refugee settlements in the southwest found that an increasing number of households are employing food consumption-based coping strategies in response to reduced humanitarian food assistance rations since December 2022. Some households are only eating one or two meals per day, reducing the quantity consumed per meal, and many rely on less preferred foods. Informants reported that humanitarian food assistance rations alone were unable to guarantee even one meal per day throughout the distribution cycle. Most refugees lack sufficient alternative food and income sources to compensate for reduced food rations, which in May were equivalent to an estimated 26 to 41 percent of households’ minimum caloric needs. Additionally, amongst refugee settlements in northern Uganda, food availability from own production is delayed and below average for the limited share of households that planted early in March. At the same time, above-average food prices continue to constrain food access. Given refugees’ limited income-earning opportunities, it is likely that Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes continue in June in the presence of humanitarian assistance, which remains the primary source of food access for this population. However, the proportion of very poor households experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes has likely continued to increase since the last ration reduction in December 2022. An in-depth analysis of refugees in settlements is provided on page 8 of this report.
The most likely scenario from June 2023 to January 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:
- At the national level, first-season bimodal production of cereals and legumes is anticipated to be below average in 2023. Regionally, eastern and northern Uganda are expected to experience the lowest production levels across the country, as these areas experienced the largest rainfall deficits in April and May. Meanwhile, crop production in western and southern areas is generally expected to be near average.
- According to international forecasts, cumulative rainfall during the September to November 2023 second rainy season in bimodal Uganda is most likely to be above average, although there is uncertainty given the long-term nature of the forecast.
- Given anticipated below-average crop production in much of the north and east, seasonal agricultural labor demand during the first bimodal harvest in June/July is expected to be below average these areas. Demand for agricultural labor during the second bimodal agricultural season from September 2023 to January 2024 is expected to be near normal given the above-average rainfall forecast. Meanwhile, in Karamoja, demand for agricultural labor is expected to remain below average but seasonall increase during the harvest around August/September.
- Pasture and water resources in cattle corridor districts, including Karamoja, are expected to seasonally decline in June/July, which is typically a dry period. Pasture and conditions are likely to deteriorate to below-average levels in more areas due to expectations for above-average temperatures during the dry period. Livestock body conditions and productivity are expected to be near normal to below normal in localized areas. With the start of the second season rains in September, above-average rainfall will likely support improvement in pasture and water availability to normal levels. This will likely sustain normal livestock productivity through at least January.
- Staple food prices are likely to seasonally decline when supplies are boosted by the bimodal harvests in June/July, seasonally increase again through the arrival of second season harvests in November/December, and then decline slightly through January. However, prices are expected to remain above last year’s and five-year average levels, driven by below-normal harvests, sustained food inflation, and atypically high demand. Based on FEWS NET price projections, the retail price of beans in Soroti is expected to trend 13 to 38 percent above last year and 47 to 62 percent above the five-year average between June and September. Between October and January, prices are expected to trend roughly 15 to 45 percent higher than in 2022 and 45 to 60 percent higher than the five-year average. Prices for beans will likely range from 4,232 to 4,893 UGX per kilogram between June 2023 and January 2024.
- According to the Bank of Uganda, economic growth is expected to continue, driven by investments in the oil sector, the continued recovery of the services sector, and the easing of global energy and food prices and domestic inflation. Annual headline inflation is expected to continue declining, driven by lower energy prices, improved global supply chains, and exchange rate stability supported by the implementation of tighter monetary and fiscal policies. Headline and core inflation are forecast to average 6.1 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively, in 2023.
- Below-average cereal production and above-average food prices will likely reduce the volume of maize exports to Kenya compared to levels in 2022. Following the commitment to implement the Revitalized Agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, exports to South Sudan are expected to increase compared to 2022 but to a lesser degree than previously expected due to the sustained high cost of Ugandan food commodities and insecurity along the transit route to Juba.
- It is expected that armed conflict and intercommunal violence in South Sudan and ongoing insecurity in North Kivu and Ituri provinces of DRC will continue to drive refugees into Uganda. Refugees who arrive after August will miss land preparation and planting for second-season cultivation. Additionally, the reduction in plot sizes in the southwest refugee settlements due to decreasing land availability is expected to limit food availability and access for farming households in those settlements.
Source: FEWS NET
Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes
In bimodal areas, most rural households are expected to continue to experience improved availability of food and income during the first season harvest and post-harvest period. Food stocks from the harvest are expected to last through at least November, when food from the start of the second season green harvest will provide additional support. Overall, most households are expected to be able to meet their minimum essential food and non-food needs throughout the projection period despite above-average food prices, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected to persist. However, in eastern and greater northern Uganda, where harvests are expected to be below average, food stocks from own production will likely last only through August/September. In these areas, below-normal income-earning from agricultural labor opportunities and crop sales in the first season will strain poor households’ ability to meet their minimum food and essential non-food needs given above-average prices, despite anticipated seasonal food price declines. Though income-earning from agricultural labor is expected to be normal during the second season beginning in September, supported by above-average rainfall, this will likely be insufficient to allow the poorest households to meet all their basic needs given above-average and seasonally rising food prices and decreased resilience following consecutive below-average production seasons in many northern and eastern areas. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist until around November when the availability of the green harvest of crops like maize, beans, and other legumes is expected to boost food consumption and improve area-level outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1).
In Karamoja, the below-average harvest in August/September is expected to only temporarily improve food availability and access for some poor households who have access to cultivation land. Given below-average production, some poor households will likely consume all their harvest in green form, while others will likely consume their food stocks by December. With income from crop sales also expected to be below average amid limited other livelihood and income-earning opportunities, many very poor and poor households are not expected to be able to meet their needs, given atypically high staple food prices. Though households will seek to mitigate food consumption gaps by selling assets when able, most poor households have limited productive assets and very limited remaining livestock to sell or provide access to milk and blood. Overall, many poor households are likely to continue to face sustained food consumption gaps. In many districts, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist even during the post-harvest period, with worst-affected households likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in the absence of intervention. Additional analysis of Karamoja is provided on page 11 of this report.
Amongst refugees living in settlements, food consumption gaps are expected to widen for many households due to reduced humanitarian food assistance rations alongside WFP’s re-prioritization plan starting in July 2023. After full implementation, 82 percent of the refugee population will receive monthly rations that only meet 30 percent of their minimum daily kilocalorie needs, and 4 percent of the population will be weaned off assistance. However, the 14 percent of the population previously assessed as “highly vulnerable” will receive 60 percent rations. Given highly limited opportunities for income-earning and expectations for sustained above-average food prices despite seasonal declines, an increasing number of refugee households will likely be forced to reduce meal frequency or quantity of food consumed per meal, while others will seek to cope through severe livelihood coping strategies such as begging. Additionally, refugees are expected to continue arriving through the scenario period, increasing competition for resources (including land for cultivation and firewood for cooking) and limited income-earning opportunities. Many very poor and poor refugees are anticipated to deteriorate from Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes between July 2023 and January 2024. An in-depth analysis of refugees in settlements is provided on page 8 of this report.
Events that Might Change the Outlook
|Area||Event||Impact on food security outcomes|
|Bimodal areas||Highly erratic and poorly distributed second-season rainfall||Even if cumulative rainfall is above average as is forecast, a highly erratic distribution of rainfall over time – characterized by episodic heavy rainfall events interspaced with dry spells – would likely lead to below-average crop production and reduced opportunities for agricultural labor in affected areas. Heavy rainfall would likely be destructive due to impacts of water logging, flooding, and landslides on crop fields, with legume crops likely to be worst affected by water logging. Meanwhile, dry spells during the normal planting period and critical crop growth stages would delay planting and negatively impact crop growth, likely reducing yields. Should these impacts be experienced in northern and eastern Uganda, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes could persist throughout the projection period.|
|Karamoja||Substantial interventions by the Office of the Prime Minister and WFP to mitigate food consumption gaps||This would reduce the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes and prevent some households from deteriorating to worse outcomes. Depending on the level of intervention, some areas may improve to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).|
|Refugee settlements||Enhanced support for livelihoods interventions||This would likely improve opportunities for livelihoods and income-earning, reducing the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.|
|Sudden refugee influx around the December presidential elections in the DRC||This would place further strain on already over-stretched resources. It is possible that this would reduce the capacity of humanitarian agencies to provide full food assistance rations for newly arriving refugees categorized as “highly vulnerable”. This would likely result in an increase in the share of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes and increase rates of malnutrition.|
Refugee settlements hosting refugees from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
According to the Office of the Prime Minister and UNHCR, Uganda hosted 1,547,981 refugees and asylum seekers as of May 30, 2023 (Figure 7). South Sudanese refugees accounted for 57 percent of the refugee population and primarily reside in the northwest settlements, while refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) account for 32 percent of the refugee population and mainly live in the southwest settlements. The rest of the refugees are from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Based on UNHCR data, between January and mid-June 2023, roughly 33,275 refugees crossed the border into Uganda due to persisting conflict in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in DRC and South Sudan. This is a considerable decrease in new arrivals compared to the same period in 2022, during which roughly 73,000 refugees arrived in Uganda. However, the substantial influx of refugees throughout 2022, with periodic spikes in new arrivals in early 2023, has resulted in heavily overstretched reception centers and overcrowded refugee settlements.
Conditions in some Ugandan refugee settlements have deteriorated, exacerbated by declining humanitarian food assistance rations over the last three years amid competition for limited income-generating opportunities, resulting in heightened tension and localized conflict with host communities. For that reason, some new arrivals have returned to their areas of origin, despite the active conflict, or opted to travel to Kenya instead of settling in Uganda. Between February and May 2023, some 5,000 refugees left the Ugandan refugee settlements of Nakivale, Kyaka, and Rwamwanja and went to Kakuma and Kalobeyei 1, 2, and 3 integrated settlement camps in Kenya. Over 1,400 refugees were recently repatriated back to their respective settlements.
In the southwest region, above-average and early rainfall in the March to May rainy season facilitated early planting for refugee households with access to land. However, the late-onset rainfall in the north delayed the start of seasonal activities. Below-average rainfall in both regions in May affected the development of crops in the vegetative growth, flowering, grain-filling, and crop maturation stages. Harvesting for most legume crops in the southwest started in late May and is ongoing but is expected to be below average due to the highly erratic March to May rainfall. In the northwest, continued rainfall into June is likely to have helped some cereal crops partially recover from the May moisture stress, depending on the timing of planting. However, due to below-average, erratic rainfall in the northwest and southwest, harvests will likely be below average for the fifth consecutive season.
According to the March/April 2022 Food Security and Nutrition Assessment (FSNA) conducted by WFP and partners, roughly 40 percent of refugees in settlements have access to land for cultivation. Refugees in the southwest settlements typically have greater access to land for cultivation than refugees in the northwest settlements, given that the northwest settlements are considerably more populated. However, results of a REACH assessment  on refugee livelihoods published in April 2023 reported that the plots of land allocated to refugees are too small for households to produce enough food for consumption and crop sales. Further, as observed during a FEWS NET assessment in the southwest refugee settlements in April 2023, land availability around refugee settlements has become so scarce that new arrivals are no longer receiving individual plots of land for cultivation in some southwest settlements and are now relying on shared plots for 2023 main season cultivation. Consequently, refugees increasingly rely on very limited casual labor opportunities and petty trade to access income to meet their needs. During the FEWS NET assessment among refugees in the southwest, referenced above, poor households reported sending at least one member to work for in-kind food to cope with food insecurity in the household. They also reported several cases of refugees who had opted to cross into Kenya and Tanzania, hoping for better conditions and higher food rations. Some even considered voluntary repatriation back to an insecure country, as was reported in Rwamwanja.
Due to four consecutive seasons of below-average crop production and declining humanitarian food assistance rations, refugees in the northwest have maintained a high reliance on market purchases for food. However, according to WFP market data, staple food prices in refugee settlements are higher than last year and the five-year average, in line with national trends. In the northwest settlements, the price of white maize increased by over 85 percent in Bidibidi and roughly 50 percent in Palorinya from May 2022 to May 2023. Meanwhile, in southwestern settlements, the price of white maize increased by 35 percent in Rwamwanja and 15 percent in Kyaka II between May 2022 and May 2023, after rising by more than 120 percent year-on-year between May 2021 and 2022 in these two settlements. The rising prices have drastically decreased food access for poor and very poor households. Currently, most food sold in refugee settlement markets is imported from neighboring districts, while limited first-season crop harvests are starting to enter the market as of June.
Over 96 percent of refugees across all settlements receive monthly humanitarian food assistance. However, due to persistent funding shortfalls, rations have decreased several times since 2020, with the most recent ration reductions occurring in December 2022. In May 2023, WFP food assistance covered roughly 25 to 40 percent of refugee households' daily recommended caloric intake, ranging across the three geographic groupings of refugee settlements . Refugees in Group 1 settlements, which make up 38 percent of refugees, either receive 40 percent in-kind rations or 23,000 UGX; however, in May 2023, the CBT ration could only purchase roughly 73 percent of the value of the food basket provided to in-kind beneficiaries in the same group, thus reducing the relative CBT ration value to only 29 percent of a household’s minimum required energy needs. Refugees in Group 2 settlements, which make up 25 percent of refugees, either receive 34 percent in-kind rations or 21,000 UGX; however, in May 2023, the CBT ration was only able to purchase roughly 77 percent of the food basket provided to in-kind beneficiaries in the same group, thus reducing the relative CBT ration value to only 26 percent of a household’s minimum required energy needs. Lastly, refugees in Group 3 settlements, which make up 37 percent of refugees, either receive 41 percent in-kind rations or 13,000 UGX; however, in May 2023, the CBT ration was only able to purchase roughly 83 percent of the value of the food basket provided to in-kind beneficiaries in the same group, reducing the relative CBT ration value to only 41 percent of a household’s minimum required energy needs. According to WFP, the cost of an individual’s minimum food needs increased by 37 percent from April 2022 to April 2023, on average across refugee settlements. With limited access to food and income from typical sources, and consistently elevated prices, most refugees are not able to adequately meet their minimum daily food and nonfood requirements.
Based on the findings of REACH’s livelihoods assessment in early 2023, 54 percent of refugees in assessed settlements faced poor or borderline food consumption, which is a higher proportion of households than were reported in the FSNA of all refugee settlements in 2022 (32 percent). Although not from a representative sample across all refugee settlements, the statistic from the REACH assessment aligns with the narrative on the likely food security impacts of reduced food assistance rations by WFP, below-average harvests, and high food prices.
According to the UNHCR Q1 2023 Health and Nutrition Dashboard, the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among children (6–59 months) based on weight-for-height z-score and the presence of nutritional edema was 7.5 percent across refugee settlements, with settlements hosting refugees from South Sudan recording 8.2 percent prevalence compared to 6.7 percent among Congolese refugees. The prevalence of diseases like malaria, respiratory tract infections, and other conditions associated with poor childcare practices, hygiene, and low-quality food intake are all associated with poor child nutrition outcomes among refugee children.
Current food security outcomes: Currently in June, farming households’ food stocks are limited following a below-normal first-season harvest. Despite the ongoing harvest season in the southwest, refugees are relying on market purchases to supplement their WFP food assistance rations. However, because typical income-generating opportunities are limited, and wages are below-average amid atypically high food market prices, poor and very poor households cannot adequately meet their food and essential non-food needs. Consequently, most poor and very poor refugee households are engaged in food-based coping strategies including eating less preferred and less nutritious meals. May are reducing food intake by eating fewer meals. Overall, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected at the area level, supported by humanitarian assistance, though a high share of the population (but less than 20 percent) is expected to be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.
In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:
- First season cereal and legume crop production in the southwest refugee settlements is expected to be average and better than in 2022, while crop production in the northwest settlements is likely to be below average.
- Refugee households’ limited food stocks and below-average market supply are anticipated to sustain staple food prices above last year’s prices and the five-year average levels. The northwest refugee settlements are likely to experience higher price levels.
- Conflict is anticipated to continue in North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the DRC, South Sudan, and Sudan. Consequently, refugees are expected to continue arriving in Uganda through the projection period. This is expected to strain further the limited available humanitarian assistance and services in already heavily congested settlements.
- Given the limited remaining cultivatable land available for new arrivals, increasingly smaller plots of land are expected to be given to new arrivals, limiting access to food from crop production.
- The implementation of WFP’s Phase 3 needs-based ration re-prioritization process to target the most vulnerable refugees is expected to begin on July 1, 2023. Refugees in Category 1 are considered “highly vulnerable” (approximately 14 percent of the refugee population) and will receive rations equivalent to approximately 60 percent ofthe GFA ration. Refugees in Category 2 are considered “vulnerable” (approximately 82 percent of the refugee population) and will receive a 30 percent ration. Refugees in Category 3 are considered “self-reliant” (approximately 4 percent of the population) and will be weaned off food assistance. New refugee arrivals will receive a 100 percent ration for the first three months and a 60 percent for an additional three months before they are categorized as either Category 1, 2, or 3. WFP has reported intentions to sustain assistance at these levels throughout the scenario period; however, as of the end of June, funding remained in question.
- It is anticipated that some refugees will likely appeal against their new categorization, especially those in Category 3. A joint appeals mechanism is in place to review the appeals. However, any considerations for recategorization will be effected only in the November distribution cycle.
- More refugees are expected to be enrolled in the cash-based modality  during the rollout of the Phase 3 implemented re-prioritization process, alongside ongoing financial literacy training and sensitization campaigns in Kyaka and Rwamwanja.
- Ongoing nutrition interventions are expected to be sustained through at least January.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
June to September period: Food from the first season harvest (June to August) will temporarily improve food availability among refugee households who farm. However, harvested stocks are expected to last only one or two months. Additionally, effective July 1, the third phase of the WFP resource prioritization will commence, and many refugee households will experience further ration reductions. At the same time, households are expected to continue to face below-average access to income-generating activities and food prices are expected to remain above-average and seasonally increase in August and September. Expansion of typical livelihood strategies used to supplement income – such as migrating to neighboring areas for wage labor, selling firewood, charcoal, poles, or grass, and increasing dependence on remittances – will be insufficient to compensate for ration reductions. As a result, many refugees will likely become increasingly reliant on less diverse, less nutritious foods. An increasing number will likely reduce food consumption to only one meal daily and/or engage in atypical, damaging livelihood coping strategies like begging for food, withdrawing children from school, and depleting productive assets to purchase food. More than 20 percent of the population will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes by July/August.
October to January period: In September, the start of the second agricultural season is expected to provide an increase in opportunities for agricultural wage labor, with demand for agricultural labor expected to be average to above-average given the forecast for above-average second-season rainfall. Additionally, from November to January, food from the second season harvests will provide a temporary increase in food availability for farming households and drive seasonally declining food prices. However, crop production will continue to be limited by small plot sizes and constrained access to inputs. However, despite some improved access to income and food, most refugees will continue to be unable to meet their basic needs due to limited livelihood and income-earning options, reduced assistance rations, and above-average food prices. Consequently, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected to prevail from August/September through January 2024.
Worsening food consumption among refugee households is expected to contribute increased risk of acute malnutrition among children under five years of age. Additionally, throughout the projection period, resources for the provision of multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance (including health, nutrition, and WASH services) are likely to continue to be overstretched. This is expected to be particularly concerning during the September to December rainy season, given typical seasonal increases in the incidence of malaria and water-borne diseases, which typically contribute to deterioration in nutrition outcomes. Overall, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in both southwest and northwest settlements is expected to be similar or slightly worse than last year throughout the projection period.
Central Sorghum and Livestock livelihood zone, Karamoja region (Figure 8)
Source: FEWS NET
The analysis of this area of concern focuses on households in the “very poor” and “poor” wealth groups, estimated at 402,895 people (about 62 percent of the population in the Central Sorghum and Livestock livelihood zone) based on the district population projections by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. As such, when referencing data from the Karamoja Food Security and Nutrition Assessment (FSNA) conducted by WFP and partners in March 2023, results reported pertain to households in the lowest and second lowest wealth quintiles, unless otherwise specified. According to the FSNA data, the districts with the highest proportion of households in the lowest two wealth quintiles are Kaabong (68.6 percent), Nabilatuk (67.6 percent), Kotido (49.2 percent), Napak (48.6 percent), and Moroto (41.6 percent).
The Central Sorghum and Livestock livelihood zone experienced an early onset of the April to September seasonal rains in March 2023, and cumulative rainfall from April to June has been average to below average. Cumulatively, the southern half of the zone received below-average rainfall (75 to 90 percent of the long-term average), while rainfall was near average in the northern half. However, rainfall has been spatially and temporally erratic, including two atypical rainfall spikes in mid-March and late April, interspaced with long dry spells (Figure 9). Improved rainfall in June slightly compensated for the rainfall deficits in some localized areas, but overall cumulative rainfall has remained below average in most areas.
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Sorghum is the most-grown crop in Karamoja, followed by maize and beans. Planting for the 2023 season was staggered between March and May, with some localized areas planting early and others experiencing delayed planting by 14 to 30 days, depending on the rainfall patterns. In the second half of April and throughout much of May, below-average rainfall delayed planting, affecting the area planted, and reduced the vigor of germinating crops. Additionally, poor rainfall distribution – especially from May to June – resulted in stunting and poor growth outcomes of young vegetative crops. However, some households replanted crops in early in March, and these crops were somewhat better able to withstand the impact of the dry spells. Overall, cumulative below-average rainfall during most of the growing season has resulted in poor crop growing conditions.
Despite the below-average and erratic rainfall since April, vegetation conditions in the last dekad of June, as measured by NDVI, are mostly above average in the north of the region and below average in much of the south, following pattersn of cumulative rainfall. Water resources are seasonally average. These conditions are generally supporting normal livestock body conditions and milk production. However, according to the 2023 FSNA, about 89 and 72 percent of the very poor and poor households, respectively, do not own livestock. Amongst Karamajong households (traditional pastoralists), only 38 percent of households own livestock. Depletion of livestock assets is of high concern and is due to a combination of sustained livestock rustling and high asset liquidation during the four consecutive years of below-average crop production. As such, most very poor and poor households are not benefiting from the good conditions for livestock productivity.
Although 88 percent of households in the Karamoja subregion have access to agricultural land according to the 2023 FSNA, some poor and very poor households did not have access to any land for production, with Moroto having the highest proportion of households without access to land (25 percent), followed by Kotido (11.4 percent), Nabilatuk (11.3 percent), and Kaabong (9.4 percent). Very poor and poor households who do have access to land typically have small plot sizes of less than one acre.
Only a small portion of available land was used for production in 2023. Given their limited resources and high prices of seeds, the very poor and poor households in Karamoja are generally unable to access sufficient agricultural inputs or labor for crop production. Moroto district registered the highest proportion of households reporting inadequate access to seeds and tools for farming, followed by Nabilatuk and Kaabong. At 63 percent, Napak district reported the highest proportion of households with insufficient family or household labor. Insecurity in the livelihood zone also continues to hinder poor households from accessing land parcels distant from their homesteads for cultivation. About 30-60 percent of households in Abim, Kaabong, Karenga, Kotido and Nabilatuk districts (in increasing severity of the problem), reported insecurity as a constraint to crop production.
Overall, availability of agricultural labor opportunities has been below average during the ongoing agricultural season due to below-average area planted and dry spells that discouraged weeding labor on moisture-stressed crops. Middle income and better-off households also have constrained capacity to employ the poor due to declining purchasing power, as even relatively better-off households are struggling to meet their basic needs due to the impacts of livestock raids and insecurity, consecutive poor crop production seasons, and above-average prices.
Currently in June, the lean season is intensifying and market purchases are the main source of food for most poor households. In Karamoja, the price of sorghum from April to May increased by 6 to 17 percent in Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Napak, and Kaabong, while there was a marginal price decline in Kotido. The current sorghum prices are 8 to 31 percent higher than in 2022 in Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Napak, and Kaabong but 16 percent below May 2022 in Kotido. Sorghum retail price is 39 to 85 percent above the recent five-year average in Karamoja markets, severely limiting food access by the poor households in Karamoja.
Typically, in addition to casual labor, poor households rely on producing and selling firewood and charcoal for additional income, especially during the lean season. Though price trends vary across districts due to varying impacts of insecurity on livelihood and trade activities, in general, charcoal prices – most demand for which comes from outside of the Karamoja region – have been stable in Karamoja over recent years, whereas prices of firewood – mostly purchased locally – have been increasing. Over the years, aggressive exploitation of trees has led to reduced availability of wood for production of firewood and charcoal, and declining incomes from firewood and charcoal sales for poor households.
From April to May, charcoal prices declined by 13 and 33 percent in Moroto and Kaabong, respectively, but remained stable elsewhere. Compared to the same time last year, charcoal prices are 6 to 27 percent lower in Napak, Nakapiripirit, Kotido, and Kaabong, but 75 percent higher than in 2022 in Moroto. Charcoal prices are 10 to 42 percent below the five-year average across Karamoja. Meanwhile, firewood prices increased by 14 and 43 percent from April to May in Nakapiripirit and Napak, respectively, but declined by 20 to 43 percent in Kotido, Moroto, and Kaabong. Compared to May 2022, the price of firewood doubled in Napak, while the price was 10 to 50 percent higher in other markets. In comparison to the five-year average, prices of firewood in May 2023 are 92 percent higher in Napak, 16 percent lower in Kaabong, and similar in Moroto and Kotido districts.
Driven by above-average staple sorghum prices and, in most cases, below-average prices of firewood and charcoal, purchasing power as measured by the terms of trade between sorghum and firewood and charcoal are below the five-year average in all districts and have declined further from April to May in all districts except in Napak and Kotido (Figure 10). However, in comparison to 2022, the terms of trade for firewood have improved due to higher firewood prices. Annual trends in the terms of trade between sorghum and firewood show that purchasing power has been volatile from year to year, but has overall declined between 2018 and 2023 (Figure 11). In Moroto and Kotido, the terms of trade between sorghum and charcoal have also improved compared to last year, driven by increasing charcoal prices in Moroto and declining sorghum prices in Kotido.
Source: FEWS NET using data from Farmgain/WFP
Similar trends are observed with respect to terms of trade between sorghum and labor wage rates. In May, households could obtain 1.9-2.8 kilograms of sorghum from one full day’s work at prevailing wage rates across Karamoja districts. This is 34-48 percent less than the five-year average (3-4 kg of sorghum). Terms of trade were 8-36 percent below last year in Kaabong, Napak, Moroto, and Kotido, but 19 percent higher in Kotido.
Given that the population of concern generally has no or negligible units of livestock, income generation from livestock or livestock products is minimal to none for these households. Meanwhile, alcohol-making is among the other significant sources of income for poor households. Moreover, alcohol residues are being consumed by both young and adults as a food source. However, alcohol consumption by both children and adults is a significant problem. Alcoholism in the region has wide-ranging effects, including but not limited to poor childcare practices and non-engagement in productive/gainful activities like farming. This has accelerated the worsening household food insecurity within the sub-region.
Current food security outcomes: Currently, as the lean season approaches its peak, the vast majority of very poor and poor households are facing food consumption gaps corresponding to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, with worst-affected households likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). These outcomes are driven by high dependence on market purchases with limited income-earning opportunities and below-average purchasing power, on top of highly eroded resilience after four consecutive below-average crop harvests. Inadequate food consumption is contributing to a high prevalence of acute malnutrition, reflected in the high levels of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) cases admitted for treatment (2,744 in May of 2023 compared to 2,178 of May 2022), similar to last year and above average levels (Figure 12).
In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:
- Households with school-going children are expected to benefit from WFP’s school feeding program in Karamoja from June to August and September to December during the school terms. The program will provide one daily meal of maize, beans, vegetable oil, and salt to about 210,000 school children, a number similar to the first school term from February to May. Additionally, WFP’s community-based Supplementary Feeding Programme (CBSFP) and the Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) programs are expected to continue throughout the outlook period.
- Wild foods – including leafy vegetables, fruits, and nuts – are expected to be available at typical levels throughout the projection period. Poor households are expected to hunt for wild game through the projection period to access income and food; however, households will be unable to expand their reliance on this source to compensate for the reduction in food and income due to finite resources.
- Based on precipitation to date and available international forecasts, cumulative rainfall in the April to September 2023 unimodal rainfall season in Karamoja is expected to be below average overall and is typically highly erratic.
- Given the area planted and crop growth to date alongside the forecast for below-average rainfall, crop production in 2023 is expected to be below average, with the harvest expected in August/September. Availability of agricultural labor opportunities alongside plowing, weeding, and harvesting from August through January is expected to be lower than usual.
- Income-earning from off-farm activities, including casual labor and firewood and charcoal production and sales – along with other minor sources of income such as alcohol brewing, stone-crushing, and rudimentary mining – is expected to be below normal due to the impacts of below-average purchasing power among the population, persistent insecurity, and increased competition for available opportunities.
- Pasture and water resources are expected to remain near current levels through September alongside the remainder of the rainy season before declining thereafter. Average livestock body conditions through January are expected. However, due to insecurity, livestock migration to dry season grazing areas is likely to be constrained.
- Based on FEWS NET price projections, the retail price of sorghum grain in Moroto is expected to decrease seasonally between June and September, trending seven to 11 percent below 2022 and 54 to 65 percent above five-year average levels. Between October and January, the price is expected to increase, trending at levels 10 to 73 percent above the previous year and 56-63 percent above the five-year average. Prices will likely range between UGX 1,448 to 1,846 per kg between June and January 2024. Above-average prices are attributable to anticipated below-average sorghum production in 2023, atypically high household market dependence by December, and below-normal supplies from bimodal areas that typically supply Karamoja.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
June to September period: Food availability and access is expected to remain constrained throughout the rest of the lean season as market prices increase further. Given this and below-average income-earning, additional households are likely to face food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes during this time. Around August, food from the green and dry harvests will begin improve food availability and support slight improvement in food consumption for those with access to crop production. With the main harvest expected in August/September, food availability will increase further, and staple food prices will seasonally decline. Additionally, poor households will access some income from harvesting labor. However, income-earning opportunities will remain highly limited and the anticipated food price declines will not be enough to allow most poor households – who do not own land or livestock – to meet their basic food needs. As such, though the number of households facing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will decrease during the harvesting period, a substantial share of poor and very poor households will likely only reduce the size of their food consumption gaps following the harvests, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected to persist in many districts.
October to January period: Given below-average production, most households are expected to exhaust food stocks atypically early. Some households will likely consume all their harvest in green form, while others will likely consume their food stocks by December. Others are likely to sell most of their harvest to obtain some income to pay off debts and meet other non-food needs. Given this, it is expected that most households will continue to rely heavily on market purchases for food. During this time, the availability of agricultural labor opportunities will seasonally decline, and food prices are expected to increase seasonally. This will further strain the already limited resources of many households. Many will seek to compensate by consuming wild foods or engaging in other activities such as brewing alcohol. However, this will be insufficient to mitigate food consumption gaps. Many poor and very poor households – though less than during the lean season of the preceding period – will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.
Even during the post-harvest period, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is expected to remain high, particularly in the districts of Moroto, Kaabong, and Kotido. GAM prevalence levels typically range from 10 to 15 percent during the postharvest period.
Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Uganda Food Security Outlook, June 2023 to January 2024: Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes projected among refugees amid assistance cuts, 2023.
Assessment was carried out in four refugee settlements: Bidibidi, Nakivale, Palabek, Rhino Camp, and five urban centres of Kampala, Arua, Gulu, Kitgum, and Mbarara.
Group 1 settlements are Bidibidi, Imvepi, Lobule, Palorinya, and Rhino Camp, and households receive 40 percent in-kind rations. Group 2 settlements are Adjumani, Kiryandongo, and Palabek, and households receive 34 percent in-kind rations. Group 3 settlements are Kyaka, Kyangwali, Nakivale, Oruchinga, and Rwamwanja, and households receive 41 percent rations.
Based on prevailing food prices, “highly vulnerable” and “vulnerable” refugees in the northwest will receive 28,000 UGX and 14,000 UGX per person, respectively, compared to 24,000 UGX and 12,000 UGX per person for “highly vulnerable” and “vulnerable” refugees, respectively, in the southwest.
To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.