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UGANDA: Survey reveals grinding poverty in war-affected north

KAMPALA, 7 April 2006 (IRIN) - Seventy percent of the population in war-affected northern Uganda live in absolute poverty, with each adult's consumption expenditure at about 20,000 Uganda shillings (US $11) per month, according to a survey released this week.

A government study of the living conditions and social welfare of people living in northern Uganda, many of whom have been displaced by civil conflict, revealed a dire humanitarian situation in the region. Dwellings were substandard, and most of the population lived on less than $1 a day.

Christopher Laker, executive director of the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund, said the survey analysed the state of education, health, labour, housing and household expenditure, vulnerability, welfare and community characteristics. Its findings will be used to guide a Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), a new initiative by the United Nations, the World Bank and the Ugandan government to address the economic and social disparities between the north and the rest of the country. "The statistics are going to form a good pillar for building up the new and existing programmes," said Laker.

Northern Uganda has been the scene of one of the most brutal civil wars, pitting the government against the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has held the Acholi subregion in a stranglehold for almost 20 years. The LRA is best known for abducting young children to serve as fighters, porters or sex slaves to rebel commanders. According to relief agencies, as many as 25,000 children have been abducted. Up to 2 million people have been displaced from their homes by the civil conflict. Some 1.6 million people live in scattered camps for internally displaced people, prevented by insecurity from cultivating their fields or engaging in any economic activities.

People live hand-to-mouth in the north. Half the working-age population, especially in Acholi, is a redundant labour force, as there are no job opportunities in the camps. The survey found that food, alcohol and tobacco consumed about 70 percent of household income. Other expenditures included 11 percent for rent, fuel and power; 7.6 percent for health; and 4.4 percent for transport, the report said. Only 0.8 percent of household income went towards education. The Acholi region had one of the lowest literacy levels in Uganda. "Literacy rate in the region stands at 54 percent compared to the national average of 68 percent," the survey said. Fourteen percent of people between six and 25 years of age had not been formally educated.

Sanitation is still precarious, according to the report, with 33 percent of households having no toilets."In Karamoja subregion, 88 percent of the all the households still use the ‘bush’ as a toilet facility," the report observed.

Theme (s): Conflict, Economy,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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