Report reveals shocking poverty.

  • Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1029 EAT on Wednesday 8th June 2022.

One in five people in Uganda is too poor to have Shs 6,000 per day, the new 2019/2020 Uganda National Household Survey found, casting a harsh spotlight on the poverty levels in Uganda.

In absolute numbers, people living below the poverty line have increased from eight million to 12.3 million. The 2019/2020 UNHS is the seventh conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) since 1999/2000. The surveys are conducted every three years. Based on the household population, excluding refugee camps, forest reserves, police and army barracks, and other special areas, the survey covered all the 129 districts in Uganda at that time.

Currently, Uganda has two national poverty lines used to measure poverty; extreme poverty and absolute poverty. The poverty lines are updated periodically using the consumer price index (CPI). Regardless of the poverty line used, a household is said to be poor if its consumption expenditure per adult is below the minimum income required to meet the basic needs.

Absolute poverty is measured by the minimum amount of money required to meet basic needs (known as a poverty line). The international standard for measuring poverty is the extreme poverty line equivalent to US$1.90 per person per day. Uganda’s poverty line has been fixed at US$0.88 to US$1.04 since 1990.

But that has climbed to a new poverty line of US$1.77 (Shs 6,630) per person per day. That swells the number of the impoverished who cannot make Shs 6,630 per day to 12.3 million. 

Using the upper poverty line of US$ 1.77 raises the number of poor persons by four million up, from 8.3 million based on US$1 (3,745) poverty line. The survey found that the number of food-poor persons increased from 3.2 million in the previous survey to 3.5 million. 

“Based on the new poverty line of US$1.77 (Shs 6,630) per person per day, the share of Ugandans living in poverty stood at 30.1 percent, representing 12.3 million poor persons in 2019/20. Using the upper poverty line increases the number of poor persons by four million from that estimated using the existing poverty line of US$1 (3,745) of 8.3 million,” the survey found.

Nearly 33.8 percent of the rural population and 19.8 percent of the urban population are living in poverty. The poverty headcount at US$1.9 (Shs7,117) per person per day is 41.1percent and in absolute numbers, income poor persons are estimated at 16.9 million.

Poverty in the northern region is more severe in terms of absolute numbers of the poor, which stands at three million.

Income poverty reduced in rural areas and increased in urban areas. In rural areas, the number of poor people reduced from 7.1 million in 2016/17 to seven million in 2019/20 whereas the number of poor persons in urban areas increased from 0.9 million to 1.3 million.

Poverty, however, remains deeper and more unequal in rural than urban areas because the resources required to bring the income of the poor up to the official poverty line is higher in rural areas.

“Despite several poverty reduction interventions, progress has been uneven across regions and sub-regions. The national picture conceals the uneven progress in poverty reduction by location. While poverty remains unchanged for Uganda as a country, poverty in the eastern region significantly reduced regardless of the poverty indicator.”

At the regional level, in the 2016/17-2019/20 period, poverty increased and was more severe in the northern region with three million persons living in poverty. Previously, poverty was more severe in the eastern region.

The central region recorded less severe poverty in terms of absolute numbers. One million (8.7 percent) persons were confirmed to be living below the poverty line. Sub-regionally, poverty, and inequality deepen among poor persons in Lango, Acholi and Kigezi. Poverty reduction has improved in Busoga West Nile, and Bunyoro.

Much as Busoga registered poverty reduction, it remains home to the majority of the poor persons whereas the share is highest in Acholi sub-region.”


The country’s population was estimated at 40.9 million persons in 2019/20, indicating an increase of about 3.2 million persons from an estimated 37.7 million from the 2016/17 survey. 

The average household size in Uganda stands at five persons. Three in every 10 households (31%) are headed by females while Karamoja sub-region has the highest percentage of female-headed households (65%).

Five percent of the population lived in another place before their current residence and four in every 10 persons (42%) moved from rural to other rural areas while 12 percent moved from rural to urban areas.


The literacy rate for persons aged 10 years increased to 76 percent from 74 percent in 2016/17. The literacy rate was higher for males (81%) than females (72%) in 2019/20.

The Adult literacy rate of persons aged 18 years and above stood at 72% which is lower than that reported in the 2016/17 survey (74%).

The Primary School Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) was 117 percent in 2019/20 while the overall Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) was at 80 percent. About four in every 10 children aged six to 12 years (37%) had never attended primary school. Thirty-three percent of communities reported having a primary school while only six percent of communities reported having a secondary school within the Local council One.”


The survey found that one in every five persons had fallen sick. The population reporting malaria or fever symptoms had progressively increased from 26 percent to 56 percent. Some 4.8 percent reported having at least one of the three non communicable diseases (NCDs); diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Half of the persons that sought care (55%) paid to get services, 51 percent paid official health facility fees and three percent paid an unofficial fee. Health insurance coverage among persons aged 15 and above is still low at four percent; this is a reduction from five percent registered in 2016/17.

“Communities rate private health facilities highly in meeting client’s expectations on handling patients with respect at 88 percent, easing of their fears and anxiety at 45 percent, and observing confidentiality at 55 percent.”

The use of tobacco in Uganda reduced from five to three percent and the current consumption of alcohol reduced from 17 percent to 12 percent. The prevalence of drug use has remained consistent at less than one percent.


The findings show that 21.4 million people (52%) are of working age. Seventy-four percent (15.9 million) are engaged in the production of goods and services. Most of the population is in employment (52%) of which 42% are independent workers without employers.

Employment in the agriculture sector increased from 36 percent to 40 percent.  The unemployment rate reduced from 9.2 percent to 8.8 percent and the median monthly earnings for an employed person were Shs 200,000 and Shs 667,000 in Kampala City.


The findings indicate that 39 percent of households (3.5 million) are in the subsistence economy and 61 percent (5.4 million) are in the non-subsistence economy.

Of the 3.5 million households, 62 percent are engaged in subsistence agriculture, 24 percent are in income- generating activities, 12 percent are earning a wage or salary and two percent are not working at all. Acholi sub-region had the largest share of households under the subsistence economy (78 percent).


Eighty-one percent of households lived in owner-occupied dwellings, 15 percent in rented dwellings while five percent lived in free dwellings.

Seventy-six percent of households lived in dwellings with iron sheet roofs while 23 percent had grass-thatched roofs. Sixty-nine percent of households lived in dwellings that had brick walls while 28 percent had dwellings with mud walls and poles.

Majority of the households (27%) used solar kits for lighting, 19 percent used grid electricity, and 11 percent used solar home systems. Seven in every 10 households in Uganda (73%) used firewood for cooking while two in every ten households (21%) used charcoal.”

Eighty-three percent of households used traditional pit latrines while seven percent used bushes. Three percent of households used flush toilets.


According to the survey, 74 percent of households owned a mobile phone and 32 percent owned at least one set of a radio.

Three percent of the population 10 years and above had used a computer in the last three months. 

“Six percent of household members 10 years and above utilised the internet for any purpose at all. More males (8%) and urban residents (15%) used the internet for any purpose compared to females (5%) and rural residents (3%).”


Of the 8.9 million households, 2.8 million are operating non-crop farming enterprises. A total of 3.1 million household enterprises and about four in every five (78%) of the households had one enterprise.

Trade (47%) and manufacturing (21%) were the most common enterprises operated by the households, accounting for more than two-thirds (68 percent) of all the activities.

A total of 4.9 million people were engaged in non-crop farming household enterprises. Two-thirds (66%) of the persons engaged in household enterprises were working owners followed by paid employees (19%). Eight in every 10 (81%) of the household enterprises used their savings as the main source of startup capital followed by those who did not require capital.

Sixteen percent of the household enterprises reported keeping a complete record of accounts for the businesses, and only five percent of the enterprise operators reported operating a bank account.


One percent of households keep money at home or in a secret place, 27 percent save with Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), and only 12 percent use commercial banks as savings mechanisms.

About half (51%) of the population uses mobile money services. Twenty percent of the population had memberships with informal financial institutions. Informal channels as sources of loans accounted for 57 percent of the sources.

About 16 percent sought loans or credit from banks. Twenty-four percent of adults sought loans from other formal financial services other than banks. One in four households that sought loans or credit in rural areas (24%) sought it to buy consumption goods and services compared to one in every five (20%) in urban areas.


The average estimated dietary energy consumption (DEC) in Uganda is 2,393 kcal per person per day and households in urban areas have a slightly higher caloric intake compared to those in the rural areas (2,390 kcal -2400Kcal).

The sub-regions of Tooro, Lango, and Teso had the highest caloric intake. On average, staples are consumed daily while milk and milk products are the least consumed in a week. The largest household share of DEC by food source was obtained from own production at (49%) in 2019 while in 2016/17, the largest share of DEC attained was from purchases (57%).

In summary, this is Uganda today:

1. Total population = 41m
2. Average family size = 4.6 persons (largest in Teso 5.9 and smallest in Kampala 3.4)
3. Popn below 18yrs = 54%
4. Urban population = 27%
5. Net pri sch enrollment = 91%
6. Net sec sch enrollment = 27% (Highest in Kampala 52%; lowest in Acholi 7%)
7. Literacy rate = 76% (adults only 72%)
8. Popn with non-communicable diseases = 3.5%
9. Popn that abuse alcohol = 18% (highest in Karamoja 48%; lowest in Busoga 4%)
10. Health insurance coverage = 4% (down from 5% in 2017)

11. Ugandans working (% working age popn) = 74% (down from 79% in 2017)
12. Agric workers = 68% (up from 64% in 2017)
13. Child labour = 28%
14. Improved water source = 79%
15. 3 in 10 Ugandans have improved toilet
16. Connection to grid electricity = 19% (down from 22% in 2017)
17. Connection to solar = 38% (up from 18% in 2017)
18. Mobile phones = 74%
19. Radios = 32% (down from 45% in 2017)
20. Television = 19% (up from 17% in 2017)

21. Computers = 2%
22. Internet use = 83% for social networking; 16% for business
23. Household operating a business = 31% (down from 38% in 2017)
24. Source of capital = 81% own savings (loans from banks 0.4%)
25. HHs in subsistence economy = 39% i.e. 3.5m from 3.3m in 2017.
26. Population in poverty = 20.3% (down from 21.4% in 2017)
27. Total population in poverty = 8.3m (up from 8m in 2017)

28. Poverty distribution: Acholi 68%, Karamoja 66%, Bukedi 35%, Busoga 29%, Kigezi 28%, Lango 23%, Teso 22%, West Nile 17%, North Buganda 14%, *Elgon 13%*, Ankole 13%, Tooro 13%, Bunyoro 10%, South Buganda 7%, Kampala 2%.
29. Contribution to national poverty by region: Busoga 14.5%, Bukedi 10.4%, Acholi 10.3%, Northern Buganda 8.1%, Teso 7.1%, Karamoja 6.5%, Tooro 6.5%, Ankole 6.4%, Lango 5.4%, South Buganda 5.3%, West Nile 5.2%, Kigezi 5.2%, Bunyoro 4.3%, *Elgon* 4.1%, Kampala 0.5%.

30. Regions where poverty has reduced: West Nile (from 35% in 2017 to 17% in 2020), Bunyoro (from 17% to 10%), Teso (from 25% to 22%), *Elgon* (from 35% to 13%) Bukedi (from 44% to 35%), Busoga (from 38% to 29%), South Buganda (from 9% to 7%), Kampala (from 3% to 2%).

31. Regions where poverty increased: Acholi (from 33% in 2017 to 68% in 2020), Ankole (from 7% to 12%), Karamoja (from 60% to 66%), Lango (from 16% to 23%), Kigezi (from 12% to 28%), Tooro (from 11% to 13%), and North Buganda (from 11% to 14%)


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