Uganda certainly is in a state of emergency

2007 and 2008 world leaders gathered in New
York City
to discuss world affairs including the
implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Noting that Africa
especially Sub-Saharan Africa may not achieve
any of the MDGs by 2015 they concluded that the region was in a state of
emergency requiring massive and urgent international support.  

the rapidly deteriorating social and environmental conditions in Uganda leave no
doubt that the ‘Pearl of Africa’ is in deep trouble with a bleak future.
Reports from credible sources reveal that 30 percent of Ugandans are suffering from
hunger, over 33 percent of Uganda’s population are suffering from mental
illness, 40 percent of children under the age of five are undernourished, 12
percent of infants are born underweight because their mothers are
undernourished, up to 80 percent of children are dropping out of primary school
largely because they are hungry (and most of the 20 percent who graduate are
functionally illiterate) and 80 percent of Uganda will turn into a desert
within 100 years largely because of extensive de-vegetation including draining
swamps. Uganda ranks among the top ten countries in the world in alcohol consumption. Add on
the fact that over 22 percent of children between the ages of one and nine
years have trachoma, the leading cause of blindness, and one has no choice but
to conclude definitively that Uganda is indeed in a state of emergency!

the 1990s, Uganda’s
policy of exporting food including nutritious fish, beans and oilseeds has
resulted in Ugandans eating cassava and maize with inadequate or no dietary
supplements leading to high levels of under-nutrition especially among children
and women.

studies have demonstrated that people who eat a lot of cassava and maize
develop neurological disorders including insanity. Add on the rising stress due
to joblessness and the appalling conditions especially in sprawling urban slums
and you understand why so many people are mentally disabled.

should keep reminding ourselves that fisheries including fish farming (fish ponds)
were developed by the British administration to provide an affordable source of
protein to low income families. Mothers Unions, health and nutrition clinics
throughout Uganda provided lessons on preparing and serving balanced meals with carbohydrates,
proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats and general hygiene including washing
hands before eating. Detailed information was contained in posters that were
widely distributed for those who could not read. Because selling food was rare,
many households enjoyed three balanced meals a day! All these efforts reduced significantly
the level of under-nutrition.

method of clearing swathes of land to grow export and food crops for domestic consumption
has resulted in extensive de-vegetation with serious hydrological and thermal
consequences. Rainfall has become irregular in amount, timing and duration; two
growing seasons are gradually merging into one in some areas affecting total
food production and seasonal availability; water tables are dropping, lakes are
shrinking, rivers are disappearing or becoming seasonal and floods and droughts
are increasing in frequency and intensity.

are rising and diseases such as malaria are spreading to new areas as in Kabale
with devastating impact especially on children. Desert conditions are spreading
with a visible impact on Uganda’s

ecologically trained person travelling between Masaka and Mbarara cannot fail
to see these topographical changes during a dry season and particularly on a
windy day when thick dust clouds shut off the sunshine.

 In view of these adverse nutritional and
environmental developments questions are being asked whether it is morally or
even politically correct for a country such as Uganda to continue to export food to
neighboring countries and beyond to earn foreign exchange while its citizens
are starving and the biological diversity is disappearing.

that malnourished children cannot develop mentally and physically to become productive
members of society, the World Bank has recommended that targeted measures
should be implemented to address the challenges paused by malnutrition. These
measures include transferring cash to vulnerable groups; getting nutrition to
infants and pregnant women; expanding school feeding programs; providing
targeted subsidies to the poor; and introducing additional measures such as fee
waivers, subsidies for school inputs or cash transfers to prevent children from
dropping out of school.

Uganda should introduce NEPAD’s (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) home-grown school feeding program
designed to realize improvements in agricultural production, education, health
and nutrition by linking school feeding to local agricultural development
through the purchase of domestically produced food by local communities. NEPAD’s
program is already being implemented in some African countries with support
from the World Food Program.

is indisputable evidence that school feeding keeps children in school
especially girls and significantly improves their performance.

 Building and sustaining viable human capital
is a prerequisite for the transformation of Uganda’s economy from subsistence
to a modern state. School feeding should be incorporated as an integral part of
that process. It should therefore receive the serious and urgent attention it
deserves at the local and central government levels with full participation of
parents and organizations of civil society such as church organizations.

Irish government launched a report at the United Nations General Assembly in
September 2008 about people who do not have enough food. With specific
reference to Africa, the report recommended
increasing productivity of smallholder farmers; implementing programs focused
on maternal and infant under-nutrition; and ensuring real political commitment
at national and international levels to give hunger the absolute priority it

 Accordingly, all Ugandans under the leadership
of the executive and legislative branches of government must begin to rethink
the development model of the Washington Consensus the country has followed
since the 1990s. Apart from skewed income distribution by class and region, the
free enterprise and free market model without regulations has clearly not
worked as originally intended to promote economic growth and distribute income
through a trickle down mechanism.

new model with significant strategic state intervention is required to remove
the imperfections of market mechanism and free enterprise and pave the way for
sustained economic growth with equity and sustainable development to protect Uganda’s

international community including state and non-state actors should extend a
helping hand to bring about the desired change without further delay.


The writer is a Ugandan who works as a
consultant for intergovernmental organizations, state and non-state actors.