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Emerging from the devastation of civil war in the 1970s and 1980s, Uganda has made significant steps in economic and social development, yet still faces major challenges. Ugandan families and communities struggle to access healthcare, education and other basic services and young children often suffer disproportionately. While the country has won praise for its fight against HIV/AIDS, the epidemic has nonetheless been devastating — Uganda has the highest proportion of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS worldwide. A conflict in northern Uganda, now in its second decade, has displaced more than 1.8 million people and has resulted in the abduction of more than 60,000 children. Save the Children implements programs in the Nakasongola, Luwero, Nakaseke and Wakiso Districts in the Central Region, and Pader and Amuru Districts in the north to help bring relief and hope to poor, underserved children.
HIV/AIDS continues to be a significant challenge. Since the epidemic began, some 1 million Ugandans have died. There are an estimated 2.3 million orphans, mostly due to the disease. The country’s health indicators are also among the lowest in sub-Saharan African. Preventable diseases - including prenatal and maternal illnesses, malaria and diarrhea — take a major toll. Close to 18 percent of school-aged children are not enrolled in school and the dropout rate averages 66 percent. Food security is also a major concern. Many families do not have enough food to last through the "hungry season" between harvests, and more than one in four children under age 5 is stunted. In the north, the search for peace continues amidst poverty, the lack of protection for children, scant food and dismal humanitarian conditions. There are 1.5 million people living in camps for internally displaced persons, of whom 80 percent are women and children with very limited access to land for cultivation, clean water and health and education services.
Read about the farmers of Nalukonge village
One of Save the Children's primary goals is to improve the nutritional status of all children under age 5. Though a community-based Growth Monitoring Program (GMP), we identify malnourished children and encourage their families use our supplementary feeding program to help children regain weight. We also provide children's caretakers with nutritional education and counseling on good feeding practices, as well as on preventing and controlling diarrhea and malaria and seeking treatment promptly when their children are sick. Parents also learn about the importance of immunizations, hygiene and sanitation and appropriate breastfeeding and weaning practices. In 2007, our services benefitted more than 47,000 people, including 27,000 children.
Through child protection activities, Save the Children works to ensure that former child-soldiers, young mothers, child-headed households and other orphans and vulnerable children are successfully reintegrated into their communities and have access to basic services. By educating community members, we help raise awareness of children’s vulnerabilities and their rights. Children also receive training in vocational skills and income-generating activities. Through work with mentors, these children have positive role models and someone to help support them as they establish their livelihoods.
Save the Children is addressing the needs of orphans and other HIV/AIDS-affected children by establishing several community-based schools in isolated pastoralist and fishing villages. Schools specialize in providing emotional support to children. We’ve also established numerous youth clubs and trained peer educators to provide youth with reproductive health information and services in a "youth-friendly" environment. We provide training in livelihood strategies for orphans, youth-headed households or youth at risk of losing a parent to an AIDS-related illness. HIV/AIDS-affected households are given monthly food rations when needed. In 2007, our work benefited more than 13,000 people, including nearly 10,500 children.
Through CHANCE, our community-based education program, Save the Children reaches some of the most disadvantaged children in Uganda. CHANCE schools serve girls and boys from poor pastoralist and fishing families who do not have access to traditional schools. Based on the principle that education should fit the needs of students, CHANCE schools have small class sizes, use child-centered, participatory teaching methods and adapt their flexible hours and calendars to the needs of each community. At the request of parents in these communities, adult literacy circles were also created to empower youth and adults. Participants learn how to read and write and to develop math skills through lessons that have relevance to their daily lives. In 2007, our education services benefitted more than 9,800 people, including 7,400 children.
Save the Children seeks to improve vulnerable families' access to and production of food. This work takes place in the Amuru District in the north and in Nakasongola in the central region. Groups of up to 30 farmers are mobilized to work at demonstration sites that serve as a source for improved seeds and agricultural practices. In addition, our Food for Work program provides food to families during the "hungry season" while rehabilitating roads. In Nakasongola, Save the Children is reaching out to mothers and their babies, helping to increase immunizations, identifying children whose growth is faltering and providing nutrition counseling. The proportion of underweight children in the program has dropped significantly — recent numbers show that only 8.7 percent of children are underweight, down from 15.6 percent. In 2007, we trained 4,350 farmers in agricultural production technology and rehabilitated 48 miles of roads; our food security services benefitted more than 64,000 people, including 30,700 children.
Save the Children will continue to focus on protection, education, health, and food and economic security activities and how these initiatives can be more closely integrated. For example, protecting children will be a crosscutting theme across all programs. Our HIV/AIDS and orphaned and vulnerable children activities will be coupled with food security and economic opportunities programs. In addition, we will expand education initiatives so that more hard-to-reach children can attend and remain in school, and continue to tackle critical issues for pastoralist and fishing communities.
Senyange, a resident of Kyebisire village, has 9 children — including two sets of twins — ranging in age from two to 14 years old. Through our programs, she discovered one of her sons was underweight for his age. Senyange received nutrition counseling and was enrolled in our Supplementary Feeding Program. Her son soon achieved normal weight status, which Senyange credits to the education she received in nutrition counseling. When her second set of twins was born, one of the infants also suffered from low birth weight and Senyange had trouble bringing the baby’s weight up to normal. The problem was identified at one of Save the Children’s Growth Monitoring outreach sites and mother and baby were enrolled in the Supplementary Feeding Program. Senyange feels that the most important part of Save the Children’s programs is that she was taught how to "do it herself" and now helps to bring awareness to others in her community.
Uganda Facts and Statistics
- Population: 34,758,809
- Infant Death Rate: 62 deaths/1,000 live births
- Life Expectancy: 53 years
- Poverty Rate: 38%
- Underweight Children: 16.4%
- Human Development Rank: 161
- Maternal Death Risk: 310 deaths/100,000 live births
- Girls' Education: 11 years
- Clean Water Access: 72%
Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children’s 2012 State of the World’s Mothers report. You can access detailed data here.
Other sources as follows: Infant Mortality Rate: CIA World Factbook 2012; Life Expectancy at Birth: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; National Poverty Rate: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; Population: CIA World Factbook 2012; Human Development Index Rank: United Nations Development Program
Last Updated June 2013